Horses. For years, she’s longed for horses…to touch them, ride them, learn everything about them. We are a suburban family now, like it or not, and horses are most certainly not allowed to live in our back yard. Youngest checks this information periodically to make sure it’s still true and sadly, we have remained entirely horseless for all these years. And although I would have loved to have given the girls the chance to take horseback riding lessons, it has been financially out of reach…so we have had to settle for peeks at the lazy horses on the public farm nearby, or moments spent feeding carrots to the Department of Agriculture horses living on the campus of my father’s university.
Until now. At Youngest’s reading clinic, there was a sign…free horseback riding at a ranch whose vision is to help kids through horses, and help horses through kids.
So we loaded up in the van, but not before I purchased some boots. Because really, every little girl needs at least one pair of cowgirl boots. And then we drove way, way out in the country…where the fires had been burning all summer long and where the sky was huge overhead, the September sun slanting gold over scrub oak and dust.
And the woman who owns the horses was like meeting up with an old friend, though we’d never met. And she knew, she knew exactly how to talk to Youngest and when she could tell that words were backing up on Youngest’s tongue like logs interrupting the river’s flow, she knew how to tell her to just relax, slow down…I can wait.
When we met the horses was when I knew, this place was a God-gift and He had put our names on that thin paper tag. Because the horses, they’d been through hard times. They came from all over and they each had a story. These were the horses people had failed to love and had thought of as trash, these were the beaten down, used-up horses who had been rescued by someone who understood that lives are saved and destinies are changed by loving the unlovable.
And me, I know I’m just like one of those horses….headed for the dog-food factory and purchased at a price, given a new life and treasured by the One who sees value where the world sees only weakness, failure. Even nine-year-old Youngest knows this feeling first hand…and there are days when the struggle gets to you, when the words on the page won’t line up to make sense in your head or when all your efforts seem to add up to nothing and you wonder what on earth you are doing here anyway, and really there are days when you just feel like dog-food.
And then God gives you this little gift, all wrapped up in pretty paper with your own name right there on it. And you love those horses because they are beautiful–every knobby, broke-down inch of them. And they love you back for no better reason then that you love them.
And maybe that’s what we’re doing here anyway, even on the dog-food days when we feel most unloved and un-loveable. Maybe we just need to unwrap that gift and let ourselves be rescued. Maybe we need to rest and reflect on the miracle of grace, be thankful for the transformation that unconditional love brings when we deserve it least and need it most. Maybe we need to remember that if all we accomplish today is loving for no other reason then that we are Loved, mightily and beyond reason, we’ve done something worthy…something beautiful and good.