“Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you.” Psalm 32:9
Would I be taking my love of horses too far to say that it is a horse who has given me one of the best pictures of what I long for my life with the Lord to look like? Would you just assume that I was truly “horse-crazy?” Possibly… but it’s true. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the horse, Whizards Baby Doll (a.k.a. “Roxy”), is an example of what we should all strive to be. Let me explain.
In 2006, Roxy and her rider, Stacy Westfall, won a national horse competition. That, in and of itself, is not unique. What makes this ride so spectacular is that Stacy rode Roxy without a bridle, a bit, reins, or a saddle… and they were able to perform some amazing moves and maneuvers. If you have ever ridden a horse, you know that a bit is a relatively small piece of metal put in the horse’s mouth, connected to the reins and the bridle, that helps you control the horse. There are soft bits, which are round and smooth, and rough bits, which can be small and sharp or large and jabbing. There are snaffle bits, curb bits, Pelham bits, and gag bits, to name just a few. The trainer is the one who decides what bit to use. But regardless of the type of bit, horses need bits in their mouth to be ridden… at least most of the time. The beauty of Stacy’s ride was that Roxy was so attuned to Stacy, so compliant, so obedient, and so willing, that no bit was required.
Do yourself a favor and take a few minutes to see what I am talking about.
Did you see it? When Stacy indicated that she wanted to go faster, Roxy went faster. When Stacy asked her to slow down, Roxy slowed down. When Stacy asked Roxy to turn, or stop, or run, or back up, Roxy did. All without a bit in her mouth! She was so tuned into Stacy that she was able to obey the slightest command and respond to the smallest request—and it is beautiful!
We Often Need Bits Too
In Psalm 32, verse 9, God tells David to not be “like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you” (emphasis mine). God is saying that it is better to be like a horse that does not need a bit—be like Roxy! I don’t think I’m taking the text too far. The purpose of the bit, according to verse 9, is to keep the horse or mule near. If a horse or mule is wandering off, they are a useless creature. But a horse or mule that is near is useful, usable, and ready. And to be near, ready, and willing without a bit is best!
Unfortunately, I am more like a horse or mule that requires a bit than I am like Roxy. And so God places and allows certain things in my life to draw me back to him. Just like there are a variety of real bits, there are a variety of metaphorical bits, too.
There are soft bits—things like a gentle rebuke or correction from a friend. When my heart wanders (and I am prone to wander), a rebuke can pull me back. There are stronger bits—things like loneliness and hardship. Loneliness causes me to long for the Lord. Hardship is a bit that softens my rebellious heart. When my passion for God wanes, struggle and sadness can be the bits that causes me to run back to him. And isn’t that the purpose for which God said the bit was to be used?
There are harsher bits, too. Suffering has certainly served as a bit in my life. Few things make me realize that I have grown proud and self-sufficient like suffering. Suffering reins me in; it is supposed to. This is not always the purpose of our suffering, but there are times that God allows suffering in our lives as a means of drawing us back to himself. He is the God that can take something hard and use it for good—if we will be trained by it (Hebrews 12:11).
Will We Submit or Fight?
The question becomes, how do I respond to the bits the Lord uses to rein me in? There are two ways a horse can respond to a bit. She can submit to it.
Or she can fight it.
So, if the Lord has put a metaphorical bit in your mouth to draw you back to himself, how are you responding? Are you fighting it and trying to run away? Are you angry, rebellious, or out of control? Or are you submitting to it by drawing near to God and becoming soft to his will and his ways?
Back to Roxy and Stacy. Roxy was only able to accomplish her remarkable feet for three reasons. One, she had spent time learning. Two, she had submitted to what she learned. And, three, she trusted her master. The same has to be true for us.
So, let me be like Roxy . . . but when I’m not, thank you, Lord, for using a bit of your mercy and grace to draw me back to you.