There are two great choices every Christian must make. The first is a choice to be free; the second is a choice to surrender that freedom.
I am eager to share a very powerful vision with you today, one that isn’t mine, but comes from a father in the faith during the "Latter Rain" movement who has now gone home to Jesus. Before I do, let me retell a story.
Some of you might remember the 1998 movie entitled “The Horse Whisperer.” In it, a very young Scarlett Johansson (think: Avengers star and now the world’s highest-paid actress) plays the role of Grace, a horse-loving 12-year-old. A traumatic winter accident injures Grace and her horse, and kills her childhood girlfriend. After this, Grace and “Pilgrim” (her horse) seem broken beyond repair.
Enter the Horse Whisperer. (Played by Robert Redford).
In this remarkable story, a very gentle, patient man succeeds in restoring both girl and horse, using what the movie calls his “God-given gift” to connect intuitively with horses. The parallels to Christian life cannot be ignored.
I watched the movie again this week, noting the similarities between the “Horse Whisperer” and our Savior, Jesus.
Savior or Lord?
We come to Christ willingly at first, longing for freedom, which we find at salvation. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” (Galatians 5:1.) This message of grace is powerful to us when we have been enslaved by sin and tormented by failure. We long for life to be better, and crave the warmth of being in Christ’s “stable!”
Many Christians remain in this “state of grace” forever. Receiving Jesus as Savior, they rejoice that they are loved and revel in the knowledge that the cross is enough to send them straight to heaven.
Maturity, however, demands that we reach a place in Christ where we make a second important decision for Him: the decision to surrender to Christ as Lord. It requires a relinquishing of our freedom for a purpose greater than ourselves. We yield ourselves to unconditional service in His Kingdom.
While many confess “Jesus is Lord” at the outset, I believe that as we grow, we realize how little control we have actually given Christ; in many areas, we find we are still holding the reins to our lives!
As I contemplated this, I wondered: what is it that keeps us from surrendering all, really, to Jesus? Why do we sometimes wrestle with God over the things He calls us to do? How do we submit more eagerly to His yoke, which He claims is “easy” but which seems to us, at first blush, to be just another form of slavery?
The obvious answer, of course, is that the flesh battles against the soul and the spirit. We long to be comfortable and we want to run our lives – we carry the pride of life that says we know what we are doing and it’s been working for us before. (See 1 John 2:16.)
This classic movie, however, revealed to me another possible source of reluctance: we’ve all been hurt. Whether we’ve experienced trauma or rejection or pain, there are things that have happened to us, as to Grace’s horse Pilgrim, that cause us to lash out or rebel when confronted, to resist putting that harness back on. The Lord calls us to come, and emotionally we “rear up” against Him, using all the force within us to resist. We fear we will experience pain again.
Like Pilgrim, we are in a miserable state: bruises from the accident on our bodies, scars from a lost battle on our minds. Our mode of operation now is “self-protection.” Those who challenge us had better beware! Our anger will crush their desire!
What does it take to overcome these wounds? We need a “Spirit Whisperer:” Jesus.
Only someone who understands pain can help us overcome it. Only someone gentle enough to watch and wait for the truth can connect with us. Only someone with both patience and a firm, guiding hand can entice us to return.
There is a magical moment in the movie that I love. The “horse whisperer” (Redford) tries unsuccessfully to harness Pilgrim, who rebels and flees at a fast gallop out to pasture. Trust does not come easily for this one!
Rather than pursue him, Redford sits down at the opposite end of the pasture and waits. His eyes never leave Pilgrim; the horse knows what the trainer expects. The trainer doesn’t give up on the horse, despite his life-threatening injuries; he simply waits for Pilgrim to choose to trust him – just as Jesus allows us to choose Him as Lord.
After many hours, Pilgrim slowly turns around, taking a few tentative steps toward the master. Such slow progress! Yet the trainer still waits. Eventually, Pilgrim closes the distance between them and returns to the Whisperer’s arms. From that point on, Pilgrim is willing to trust again and to receive the harness, knowing that it is for his ultimate good.
What a beautiful picture of our life in Christ! What a poignant reminder of the love of Christ that waits patiently for a willing Bride, never coercing her into submission, never forcing her into service!
The goal will always be for us to take His yoke upon our shoulders. But we have a wonderful promise in Matthew 11: 29: “I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” His yoke is easy, His burden is light. Anything Christ calls you to do He will have already prepared you for. Most importantly, anything He summons you to will be done together, with Him by your side. You need never fear the surrender of your life to such a kind and wise Master!
To close, I want to share, with his daughter Becky’s permission, a vision that a Missouri-based minister, Bill Britton, had many years ago in a pastors' conference in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It is so closely tied to today’s theme that I felt you simply had to see it! I pray it will encourage you as much as it has encouraged me, and that you will continue that process of yielding wholly to the One who “whispers” so gently to your Spirit: “Come!”
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A severe hearing loss from childhood caused Deborah Perkins to develop what she now calls her secret weapon: tuning in to God's voice. A Wellesley College graduate and an award-winning writer, Deborah is now a wife and mother of 3 boys. Deborah has devoted over 25 years to professional and lay Christian ministry in New England and beyond. Her passion is inspiring people to cultivate greater intimacy with God.