I grew up hearing about God my whole life. I knew He is a loving God, and He wants the best for us, which is why I should obey Him. I knew in my head that He gave us rules in order to protect us - we don't have bad things happen to us when we sin because He wants to punish us, but rather, He tries to keep bad things from happening by warning us ahead of time what to avoid.
Like most preacher/missionary kids, though, I have sometimes gotten tired of the constant focus on God, holiness, and all that goes with the lifestyle. I've heard this fatigue referred to as growing up with a "dose of religion," and being "innoculated" against religion from that, so that you never actually "catch Christianity." I just call it "taking one of life's biggest blessings for granted." Humans are good at that! ;-)
Fortunately, I've never gone and outright rebelled against my upbringing in obvious ways, but I have struggled a lot over the years with letting God direct my dreams vs. planning my own life. The last few years have seen a lot of growth in that area, and part of that has actually come from having Mira! It's a long story, but basically the timing and the way I found her showed me that God really doesn't want to be mean and deprive me of blessings, and that He actually made me to need horses, He knows He made me to need them, and He has a lot of fun arranging the way my dreams in that area happen. I have begun to have a lot more trust about that aspect of His character, dream-giver AND dream-fulfiller, lately.
I still have no guarantees about how my dreams will turn out, though. That is the tough part about trust. I bet a lot of times things will take longer than I want, or will look different than I want. What I am starting to realize, though, is that He really does WANT to wow, amaze, impress, and delight me with how He can make things turn out even better than I would have been able to arrange!
This process has made me think a lot about God's character as the Good Shepherd, and what shepherds are like as they live with their sheep. It has also made me think about how He designed horses to communicate, and what makes them tick. I used to try to almost "shepherd myself" in my Christian life. I thought it was my responsibility to do all these things to make myself grow as a Christian. I have realized though, that that is not Biblical. I will not go into the references right now, partly because the proof is all through the Bible. God talks constantly about how He wants us to rest in Him, cast our cares on Him, come to Him for rest, follow Him like sheep, etc. etc. He wants us to trust in Him and be willing to work at what He tells us to, when He tells us to. We are not supposed to try and figure out what we need to work on next week, or what program of self-improvement we should figure out. Just listen to Him for the next step.
Very simple, very hard, very satisfying, much more art than science, if you know what I mean, and very much what we were made for!
Then I started thinking about the similarities between the way He wants us to relate to Him, and the way I want my horse to relate to Him. WOW. Immediate brainstorm! This has revolutionized so many of my ingrained attitudes and expectations the last couple years - it has been so cool! When training my horse, I never expect the horse to be worrying about how it should be doing better at this, or working harder to improve its flexion or how it needs to do better at not sleeping in the cross-ties, etc. etc. ALL I want from my horse is for it to respond willingly to my requests, commands, & cues. If the horse is willing, we can solve all sorts of problems as they crop up, and if the horse is willing, it will eventually look like a beautiful dance to watchers! I am the one to decide that we are going to work on picking up feet nicely, or that Mira needs work on desensitizing to plastic bags, or that a dull horse needs to learn not to be so lazy, or that we need to practice lead changes or backing up. A horse is not capable of training itself to become a Grand Prix dressage horse, a Three Day Event horse, a Reining horse, or any of the other multitude of things they can do. A foal cannot conceive of the things it will be asked to do later, but if it is trained by a good trainer, it will gradually learn how to do all those amazing things, and all that it ever needs to think about about is cooperating with the Trainer!
And you know, if you look at the Bible, it seems like one of the marks of God working in someone's life is how they accomplish the impossible, things they never could have dreamed of, simply by following Him! They are not told the goal ahead of time, and they are usually not told many of the reasons, but now, looking back, we can see what God, the perfect Trainer, did in their lives through their willingness just to walk (or trot & canter? ;-D) step by step with Him.
I hope this excites you at least half as much as it did me when I started to finally get this!