Sometimes the glitter gets rubbed off our dreams.
Ever since I was a little girl, I dreamed of having a horse. I was a city girl and there wasn’t money for a horse. But horses exemplified freedom, and I knew if I just had a horse, I could escape all my troubles and ride off into the sunset of a life as it was meant to be. That dream remained with me throughout my life, even as I grew up, married a wonderful man, had our son and lived a happy life. It remained with me as Jesus healed me from a life without Him. In fact, God has used my horse dream repeatedly to shine light in my heart, and to reveal Himself in my life.
My first horse was a gift from my husband on my 30th birthday. Dallas was a young horse, and not a good fit for a green rider like me. He was followed by several inexperienced horses over the years. One of those horses threw me badly in 2009. My neck healed from the severe whiplash I suffered, but my psyche and heart were not so quick to heal from the fear of being thrown again. I experienced some success as I worked with my horse trainers to learn to remain engaged with my horse when fear was triggered. However, there were times when fear seemed to set in and take hold of me – as if my dream was betraying me. Why couldn’t I get through this fear in my horse dream?!
One example of fear taking hold occurred in 2012 with my beautiful gray mare, Lily, after a couple of lessons where my lack of focus and engagement with my horse resulted in what I interpreted as belligerent behavior in her. My trainer (and friend) reminded me that in the relationship with my horse, I had to be the adult, so Lily could trust me. She said what I interpreted as belligerence in Lily was probably uncertainty. So, I determined to work on being the adult in the relationship during the following week.
I took Lily out to the front yard to work her on a lunge line on Monday night. She trotted and cantered on cue for a couple of laps, then exploded into a wild gallop around and around me. I pulled her head toward me to try to slow her and used the whip to push her away when she faded in toward me, fearful she would kick me. I could not release her line in the yard, lest she run into the road. She finally tired enough that I could slow her and stop her. She stood sweaty and exhausted at one end of the rope, while I stood sweaty, exhausted and nauseous with fear at the other end. I waited for my heart to stop pounding in my ears and for my lungs to take in more than shallow gasps, then I gathered up the line, led her to the barn and released her into her pasture. I sat in my barn as the day’s light waned. I cried and prayed.
The fear and anxiety I felt brought me the closest I had ever come to my dream being crushed. It was not just the challenge of the recurring fear or working through ineffectiveness, but also the concern that I was ruining this wonderful horse, and consequently, disappointing my trainer. I cried out to the Lord – and what came to me was, “Trust Me, I will bring you through this.” I did not know how, and I did not know how long it would take, but I put all my trust in Jesus, who was always faithful to me. I knew I would try again Tuesday night.
I shared with my trainer in email what happened, and what my fears were. She reassured me that she was never disappointed in me – that she had the utmost respect for my try and commitment; and she told me I could not ruin Lily, who was strong and resilient. She told me to hold onto those two truths and not let the enemy steal them from me. She also suggested that the challenges I faced went way beyond horse stuff.
Tuesday evening I walked out to Lily’s pasture to work with her. I asked God to be with me, but I was really scared – I just needed her to not explode. It was not much to offer my horse, but it was all I had. Lily balked at my tentative requests, but she did not pitch a fit. It was enough in that moment.
Wednesday morning, I reminded myself that the God who had been with me even before I believed in Him, was always with me. He told me to trust Him. I knew He would, once again, be my strength in getting me through whatever I was facing. I let go my attitude of resignation in my circumstances and resolved to battle my fears. By this I do not mean, “I’ve got this, Lord.” What I mean is, “If this is what You call me to do, I am willing. Lord, make me ready.”
Yet, as I stepped through the door into the garage on my way to work with Lily on Wednesday evening, I felt fear gnaw at my heart and mind. I sat on the step and prayed, “Lord, I’m scared, but I trust you to bring me through this.” Truly, I still did not know exactly what “this” was. I asked for His strength to help me stand against my fear and against the enemy trying to steal my dream. Then, a thought struck me. I knew God was not causing my fear, but I asked Him if He wanted me to give up my dream for some reason? I told Him I would fight against the enemy, but that if He ever asked, I would surrender my dream, though it would hurt me to do so. And I heard again, “Trust me.” So, I steeled myself and headed for the barn and Lily with a determined attitude. I think Lily felt the change in me right away. She pitched a half-hearted fit, but she willingly moved out when I pushed her through it. We got forward: not always pretty, and not perfect, but we got it. I thanked and praised God for the victory. But I knew the core issue remained.
During my prayer and Bible time with God Thursday morning, and still enjoying the victory with Lily, I thought about my dreams and fears, and my growing knowledge of, and faith in, God. Coincidentally, I had recently read an article about facing our fears and spiritual growth, which provided insight.
The author said, “Sometimes in order to keep the dream alive we must run head on into our deepest fears. Fighting those fears may be the hardest and most painful thing we do, but it never fails to be worth it.” I could certainly attest to the difficulty and pain of facing and fighting my fears.
My childhood dream was freedom, represented by owning a horse – a child’s simple hope of life as it should be. God granted me that dream in adulthood – perhaps even put the dream in my heart – even before I knew Him. However, the dream presented challenges all along: I had experienced fears, setbacks, temporary defeat. Yet I held to that dream.
I thought about how God had held me that week and helped me face and conquer a setback and almost crushing fear, and I suddenly realized something: the dream of freedom and that things would one day be as they should be – would not be fulfilled by my success with my horse. I had made my horse dream a “thing.” In fact, apparently, I had made it “the” thing upon which all else hinged. Though I loved the Lord with all my heart, there must have been a tiny part of my wounded little girl’s heart deep inside that never gave up the idea that my horse dream was somehow tied to my healing. I heard my friend’s words again, “What you are going through is way beyond horse stuff.” Oh, how could I have been so blind?! The real dream – that things would one day be as they should be– was never about horses. The Truth: God is the dream, the ONE thing that all else hinges on. It was a painful, searing revelation – yet I laughed with joy for being shown the chink in my armor.
“Thank you, Jesus!” I said aloud.
I hit my knees and again surrendered all to Jesus – my hopes and dreams, my pain and fear, my family and friends, all surrendered into His care.
My horse dream had been put into perspective. I saw that I had put WAY too much pressure on my horse and myself. Lily finally got to be a horse, and not just a dream come true. Did horse things suddenly become easy? No. I continued to struggle, and continued to experience fear on occasion, even today. I had twisted the dream God put in my heart. But, when I surrendered my dream to Him, He faithfully polished it and gave it back to me – and it far surpassed anything I could have imagined. This was freedom.
Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4
So, I can say with the greatest conviction: I am truly and gratefully living the dream every day. When I look away or lose sight, God’s focus on me always helps me refocus on Him.