The sun was riding lower in the sky when Todd stepped into the pen. The horse was branded. She was branded with a mark of someone else—someone who had once owned her. Now she was there in the pen surrounded by a crowd of eager spectators. Everyone expected to witness this wild horse become broken and submit. But it was plain to see after some time that she was already broken. She was hurting and you could see the fear in her eyes.
The horse wanted nothing to do with Todd, who just wanted her to know she had so much potential. Instead of just being a stock horse, she could be what she was created for. But something happened to her long ago that kept her from allowing people near her.
She’d run laps in the pen, trying to find an escape, not wanting to be near the man who just wanted to love her. Then she’d walk backwards.
“I’ve never seen a horse do this before,” Todd said as he walked beside her, trying to earn her trust.
But whenever Todd got too close, she’d turn away.
“It’s as if my touch shocks her,” he said later.
She didn’t realize this man was different from those in her past.
For an hour and a half, I sat on a quilt spread out on the spring, green grass watching and listening to Todd interact with this beautiful horse. Todd Pierce was once in the professional rodeo world riding bucking horses, and now he shares the Gospel with people all over the world while he tames wild horses. His ministry, Riding High Ministries, came to Gospel for Asia (GFA) on April 16, and staff and people from the community gathered to watch him demonstrate God’s love to people as he worked to break—or rather heal—this untouchable horse.
As I watched, I was trying to imagine what the horse’s story might be. What had she gone through to be this way? I didn’t know, but it made tears stream down my face. I knew there is a world just like this horse: broken, abused and scared.
The horse’s behavior and her resistance didn’t change the fact that Todd, an experienced horseman, wanted her to know she was OK—she could trust him. But she didn’t want to be loved. How could she receive his gentle touch when perhaps all she had received before were brutal jabs? Perhaps every time someone had drawn near to her it wasn’t to speak softly or to give a friendly pat. Maybe she had been used and crushed and bruised.
You could see the brands on her body. Todd could see them more clearly than the rest of us. She often kept that side of her against the bars of the pen—maybe to protect herself. But Todd wouldn’t give up on her.
Just as the Lord gives us a free will, he wouldn’t force himself upon her either. Perhaps if she wouldn’t receive him, maybe she would receive his son? Todd asked his son to join him in the pen. Maybe this broken and terrified horse would receive love and affection from him.
The son looked at his dad to see what he should do next, doing nothing unless his dad told him to do so. If she wouldn’t receive his son, how would she ever receive Todd? But still she didn’t respond. He left the pen, leaving the rest of the training with his father.
Things didn’t go as planned that evening. In all of Todd’s years breaking horses, this was one he couldn’t reach … yet. To respect people’s time, he dismissed the crowd that had gathered. Some dispersed, but others instead chose to get closer to the pen, looking at the fearful horse, praying prayers under their breaths for the horse to receive the healing she needed.
The sun now colored the sky in hues of orange and pink as it set beyond the horizon. The crowd continued to disperse. But Todd was not finished with her yet. He continued to communicate with her, trying again and again to build her trust. And then … she stopped running. She stood still, heart beating wildly, and she let his fingers touch her neck. She flinched at his touch and kept a foot bent, ready to run. But a miracle took place.
Somehow, after that first touch the horse was OK. Todd was so gentle. As he stroked her neck, she calmed. Then as the evening turned to night, she allowed Todd to climb up on her back and hug her. She received his love. It was something so stirring to watch. There he was, earning her trust. He could have given up on her, but instead he was patient, and she reciprocated. She finally came to know this man was not going to hurt her.
I walked home. I really couldn’t say much. I was too touched for words. Could it be that my God loves this broken world so much that He would be so patient just to let us know we are safe in his arms? We are even safe to be loved in our brokenness. Sometimes it is not our fault we have been broken. Other times we have chosen paths that led to our own pain and regrets. But God waits for us, with hands stretched out until we receive His touch.
Just like Todd didn’t give up on the horse, God does not let us go simply because we have been broken. He longs to call us home to Himself. He stretches out his hands to us to embrace us. He gives us a chance to be fully loved. And we can trust Him with our broken lives—the lives He wants to heal and make new.
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