The first part of this story happened back in August of 1998, when we (the people of Rose Creek Village) were living in Bethel Springs, Tennessee, in what we affectionately called “Mash ’em Inn,” a farmhouse that we had built a massive addition onto to create a 14-bedroom, 7‑bath dwelling which housed about 85 of us. Fun times! (No, really!)
Anyway, living this kind of life really brings out the creativity in people. We have an annual festival we call the Ingathering, which we do around the end of September/beginning of October. We usually have new dances and music that we create to honor our Lord and encourage the Body. That year, we were going to do a series of four dances that were themed around the four horses spoken of in Revelation. So, of course, it only made sense to plan on there actually being horses involved in these dances.
I was approached about whether I’d want to be the rider of the “red” horse, to which I agreed. Now, this wasn’t smart on my part (or anybody else’s), as I had little-to-no experience with horses up to this point, and the reason I was asked to participate was because my best friend, Stephen, who had been working on this part, had been thrown by the horse into a barb wire fence…
The red horse was the horse of war, and boy, did our horse fit the bill. His name was Shogun, a red quarter-horse that looked like the equine equivalent of Mr. Universe. He had incredible stamina and strength, as well as some really bad habits. His previous owners didn’t really know what to do with him; whenever he misbehaved, they’d put him away. So, he learned that if he wanted to go back to his comfortable, well-stocked stall, all he had to do was act up, which included bucking, running wild, etc. He also had barn fever, which means that whenever he was headed towards the barn, he’d take off running, and it was a workout trying to get him to walk.
Why we–a community of about 175 people at the time with lots of kids–even owned a horse with these issues is beyond me.
So, I end up working with Shogun with the assistance of Mercy, who used to train horses. Now, sitting astride an animal that weighs somewhere in the neighborhood of 700–800 pounds and has all of his will bent on doing what he wants to do can be a stressful and intimidating experience, especially if you’re inexperienced.
Now, I don’t recommend the methods that I was using. I didn’t really know what I was doing much, which I realize was pretty stupid, and I’ve learned a lot since then, even though I don’t continue to work with horses. The people in the Village who work with the horses have done a lot with natural horsemanship methods, with very good results.
We worked with Shogun for a couple of weeks, just trying to get him to obey, follow commands, and not run wild whenever he felt like it. We had very little success; tensions between the horse and I began to escalate.
Finally, one evening after a particularly trying training session, it we beginning to get dark and we were taking Shogun down to put him away. He took off for the barn, and I had to rein him in tightly, circle him, and then make him walk in the other direction. We got into a pretty intense battle of wills.
After repeating this procedure about 4–5 times, I turned Shogun back towards the barn, and tried to get him to walk towards it. Not surprisingly, he took off running again down the gravel road. I reined him in, and began pulling his head around to circle him, and then he decided that he’d had enough.
Have you ever seen in the cowboy movies when a horse rears up and stands on it’s hind legs, while the rider holds on and yells, “Whoa!”
Well, Shogun wasn’t going for the standing posture. He suddenly threw himself over, slamming me down into the gravel road, with him falling on top my body.
I didn’t hardly have time to even think “Whoa!”
Shogun rolled around on top of me, thrashing his legs in the air, probably for about 10–15 seconds (which is a really long time when there’s a saddle horn crushing your lower abdomen and ribcage). Finally, he rolled off of me, scrambled to his feet, and took off down the road.
Mercy took off running for the house to get help, and I lay there crushed, feeling things shifting, popping, and leaking that shouldn’t be doing those things. I remember the stars were really bright that night, and I laid there struggling to breathe and knowing that I was actually going to die. I thought, God, help me!
Then, every sensation of brokeness, pain, and damage just kind of went away, like it was being sucked down a funnel or something. Within 20–30 seconds I was breathing easily, not hurting at all, wondering what just happened, totally stunned.
People came running, and soon I was encircled by everybody. Jeshurun was fighting his way through the crowd to get to me to help, and I told everybody to back off so he could get through. He leaned down over me.
“I think so,” I said, still surprised and very shaky. As he helped me up, I realized that my arm was broken, right below the elbow, from where I had put my arm back to break the fall. That and a small scrape the size of a half-dollar on my lower back were my only souvenirs from the escapade.
I never did get back on that horse.
I know without a shadow of a doubt that God healed me that night. It was a real-life, honest-to-goodness miracle.
But that’s not the miracle that I really wanted to tell you about.
You see, oddly enough, having that happen didn’t really change me, make me a better person, or make me believe in God–I already believed in God. I knew that he existed, that he loved me, that he worked in the lives of the people around me; I had grown up seeing his work. Or at least, I thought all of that was true.
Now, let’s go forward about 3–4 years. I was going through some really hard times, with God really putting his finger on some areas of my life, showing the amount of darkness I was really walking in. I had maintained a really good outlook on my self and character all my life, never really looking at myself, never seeing that I was a low, selfish creature.
Sure I believed in God. But did I obey him? Ah, there’s the rub.
In a long sequence of events (which I won’t get into in this already long story), I was confronted by some things about myself that weren’t pretty, and were hurting people in my life. It was hard to deal with, but even through all the revelation, I somehow managed to cling to the tattered rags of my imaginary dignity and walk around feeling like “I’m not that bad.”
In the midst of all this struggle, I went to a friend of mine to talk to him about something I was irritated about with another brother. I honestly have no idea what that subject was anymore. While I was talking to him, I felt like he wasn’t really paying attention, and he suddenly cut me off mid-sentence.
“Do you know what your problem is?” He asked. “You’re a selfish person. You’re mean, prideful, and consumed by yourself. That’s the reason for all of your problems.”
He really laid into me, going on and on about how wrong I was. And I was so mad. I wanted to walk out and just write him off so badly. But, as the anger was coursing through me and my brain was screaming “You don’t have to take this from him!” I saw that even through his angry countenance he had tears in his eyes, and I could tell that he was mad because he had to say this to me, that it hurt him to hurt me. In short, I could see how much he loved me in that few seconds.
Right then I had a choice to make. All of a sudden I knew that this confrontation was really the hand of God holding up the mirror of Truth so that I could really see myself in all my ugly glory, and I had to choose whether to turn away and walk out, or face the truth. So I admitted that what he was saying was true, and when I did that, I could no longer hide from God anymore. I had to take ownership of everything that was wrong with me, all the stuff that people had been working with me to see that I was somehow refusing to look at. And by taking that ownership, and looking at my sin, God totally devastated my life.
I spent months where I woke up every morning thinking about how much I hated the way I was; I was a wreck. But, through it all, I knew that, somehow, God loved me enough to go after me, and to make me His son.
In Hebrews 12 Paul writes:
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (ASV)
And that is the greatest miracle in my life: that God accepted me as His son. That realization changed my life, far more than a miraculous healing ever would.