If you follow my blog or have read more than one of my books, you’ll know that God regularly speaks to me about focus and rest in Him no matter what is going on around me. This came up again part way through the morning service as the congregation sat in a moment of silent prayer during the worship service.
My daughter’s horse was moved for the second time during the current winter months, earlier in January. She moved from a relatively quiet barn to a very busy barn. It must be noted that for most of 2015, she’d been undergoing training at a barn that was extremely quiet! We knew that Bella needed more interaction with other horses in lesson-like settings. We had been encouraged when a trip to a schooling show went extremely well as far as her general overall behaviour went around many horses, people and even dogs milling around the show grounds. However, it became painfully clear within three weeks of moving to the latest barn, that Bella’s ability to handle herself calmly amid much hustle and bustle was going to be the next major phase of her training and rehabilitation.
On Saturday this weekend, the lesson before, during and after grooming, was simply to learn to stand calmly, quietly, and pay more attention to Ashley than to everything else that was going on. Eventually she stood quietly, but it took awhile. Ashley’s goal is that one day, and every day thereafter, Bella will be able to focus on her, ignore everything going on around her, and just do what Ashley is asking at the time in a calm and quiet manner.
This morning as I sat quietly before the Lord, yesterday’s lesson came back to mind. God wants me to learn to focus on Him more readily, to not get tensed up and antsy at what is going on around me, but to stand calmly and quietly, waiting for Him to give me my next move. When God has asked me to move, He asks that I do so focusing solely on Him, not allowing everything around me to distract and derail me from what God wants me doing at that moment.
As Ashley has begun reminding Bella in the ring, “Notice, observe, process, but do not react, focus on me”. Just like horses spooking at shadows or sudden movement, so too we humans can find ourselves jumping at spiritual shadows the enemy throws up in front of us. We can find ourselves jumping sideways off the path because of sudden movement caught in the corner of our eye. A calm and persistent rider will push the horse on through the shadows so that the horse learns there is nothing in the shadows to be scared of. A bomb-proof horse will generally not spook at sudden movements of birds, dogs or other creatures and objects such as plastic bags rustling in the breeze. The bomb-proof horse has learned that those things are not a threat and therefore don’t require the quick response of a prey animal to spare its own life.
God gives us a picture of how He longs to lead us and of the attitude and focus we are to have toward Him in Psalm 23. Just like horses, we tend to shy at shadows, yet we have Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd to lead us through them, showing us that there is no real threat there. When God is our focus, we can eat at His table in full view of threats that would otherwise scare us half to death because they could be fatal to us if God was not present.
Many things in life can seem wild, unruly, seemingly welling up out of nowhere right in front of us! God knows we are human and prone to be distracted by these events when they happen. Christ showed us the patient, rescuing nature of God when He saw Peter’s eyes get diverted off Himself and onto the choppy waves around the boat. When Peter took his eyes off Christ, he began to sink in those waves, but Christ reached forward a hand to save him. Christ’s rebuke was a warning, “Why did you doubt? Oh ye of little faith”, and led them both back into the boat upon which they were suddenly at the other side. I am so thankful for the patient nature of a loving God.
Sometimes we need to be as the man in one of Christ’s encounters who said, “I believe, help thou my unbelief”. When we fail to trust God, we show a lack of belief in His ability to keep us. Just like Bella, we get frightful, uptight, even tense, worried or scared. It is only when we get our focus back on God that we realize the things that made us feel so worried aren’t as big and scary as we thought they were. It all takes focus. Even in times of fear, we can ask God to help us grow in the trust we place in Him. Sometimes when Bella tries hard to focus on Ashley while still being concerned about what is going on around her, we will see her eyebrows all furroughed up in fear, questioning, and the hope that Ashley has the answers. As Ashley shows confidence and quietness in the situation, Bella begins to relax and her eyes become quiet again.
God is willing to do that for us as well. It’s ok for us to come to Him, doing our best to focus on Him with life in a whirlwind around us. He’s perfectly ok with us coming in our fearful state hoping He has the answers, because He does! If we stay in His presence long enough, His quietness and peace will flood over us and we too will be able to calm down and rest in His arms. God’s desire is that eventually, the storms of life will no longer upset us to the point of distraction. God’s desire is that we will be able to continue focusing on Him and continue in the task He has given us even if that task is simply to stand and wait on His timing.
Life is busy. Life can be loud. Life can be surprising in both good and bad ways. Life has shadows. Life has commotion and tumult. But through it all, God is there asking us to keep our focus on Him even if what is going on scares us. God would rather us run to Him in our fear, than get distracted and take off away from him. But He leaves the choice to us. He leaves the choice to me. What will I choose?