The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness. Jeremiah 31: 3 (KJV)
Today, we went riding at Little Manatee State Park. It is close to home and with threatening weather in the forecast, we thought it best not to wander far. We discovered some new trails, rode some familiar favorites and had a wonderful day. The thunder began to echo just as we rode back to the trailer, and we got home before any heavy rain began. I tried something new with Trucker today. Actually, I returned to something old. Recently, I realized that I pull on his reins too much. A horse is steered by a bit in his mouth. This metal piece puts pressure on his tongue causing him to respond to a request to slow or turn in order to alleviate that force. A well trained horse, however, can be ridden without any or very little use of the bit. They respond to a lighter, gentler method using leg pressure on their side. Not, a kick or slap, but a consistent constriction of the leg against their flank directs them. Even better is a horse that will respond to voice commands. A whoa or a kissing sound is all they need to hear to know what is required. My horse will do all of those things, however, out of laziness, I have resorted to pulling on his reins to convince him to do such things as turn, raise his head from eating plants along the trail or stop. It was purely out of laziness. The other methods are more work and take consistency. I can get an instant response from the reins. But, I also realized that the more I pulled on his reins, the harder it was to get him to listen to me. The more I pulled the more force it took to motivate him. So, today, I resolved to go back to keep my hands light on the reins, using leg pressure and vocal cues. At first, it was hard to remember. After only a few minutes of relying on my legs and voice to instruct, however, Trucker was responding quickly. We trotted for a long time at a steady pace without even one correction to slow down. He was calmer as well. Wouldn’t you if you had the choice to do as you were told without being yanked on all the time? It made me think about how sometimes, we act the same way with people, particularly children. Instead of using the least amount of force to correct and instruct, we come on hard and heavy. Yelling, intimidation, anger can all be negative reinforcements. It is like using the atom bomb before firing a warning shot. Start with kindness and gentleness, save the strict discipline for times that call for a firmer hand. The same can be said for our Christian witness. Yes, we want our message to be heard, but it seems to me a soft voice and a consistent life telling of God’s love will go a lot farther than condemnation and judgment.