This is RODEO week here in Salinas, and as I am getting ready to enjoy the rodeo festivities, I'm remembering something God taught me a couple years ago when I carried a flag in the Pageant of the Flags for the rodeo opening ceremonies.
This year, I'm not carrying a flag in the rodeo, but I am at a place where I need to remember again the lesson of God holding me back, and what that might mean in the kingdom. I need to remember the lesson of my beautiful horse, Jewel. Maybe you do, too . . .
With Flags Flying
My horse, Jewel, edged sideways. The giant flag, secured to the holder in my stirrup, flapped in the breeze. Ahead of me, a mare stomped her foot, the loudspeaker squeaked, the crowd stood with cowboy hats over their hearts.
The music shifted. I adjusted my flag. The lead horse broke into a lope in front of me. I followed.
Slowly, we loped along the back fence, turned toward the crowd, and made a perfect circle in time with the horse in front of us. Above me, the stars and stripes of the flag whipped out full and glorious. Below me, the rhythmic thud of hooves impacted the dark earth.
The music quickened. So did Jewel. She strained agains the reins. I could almost hear her thoughts: Faster, faster, we have to catch up!
I held her back, tightening the reins, releasing them, checking her up gently but firmly so that she kept the proper pace.
She snorted. I persevered. Because I knew the pattern. Two slow circles, then turn and stop in a line, facing the crowd as the flags from all the horses flew in unison.
It would be beautiful to watch, the horses loping in time with each other, the spacing perfect, the flags flying in a pattern as the music soared.
Beautiful to see, but to Jewel, not much fun to do. She liked to run. She wanted to sprint down the rail as fast as her legs would go. She didn’t want slow circles. And she certainly didn’t want to stop and stand, waiting, going nowhere.
She didn’t like it.
We did it anyway.
Two circles, followed by standing quietly in a line with the flags blowing in the wind as the music ended. Jewel snorted. She pulled at the reins. She flapped her bottom lip.
And she obeyed.
The crowd cheered. Cameras clicked. And the flag above me was displayed in all its beauty.
As we exited the track, I thought about how I’m a lot like Jewel. I want to run straight out toward my goal. I don’t want to be held back, I don’t want to stand still. I don’t like it when God pulls back the reins.
But God knows the pattern for my life. And sometimes he wants me in the slow circle position. He wants me to lope quietly behind the lead horse. He wants me to let his banner fly above me in all its beauty.
And like Jewel, I often snort, chomp at my bit, and tug on the reins. I flap my lips. I want to run faster. I want race along to the end. I don’t want to follow at all.
I certainly don’t want to wait.
But even when the waiting doesn’t make sense. Even when I don’t understand why God is tightening the reins, I need to obey. I need to lope. And stand. And try not fidget.
Because God has a pattern in mind. And I want to run it well, beautifully, just like Jewel. I want his flag to unfurl over my life and be displayed in all its wonder.Hebrews 12:1-2 (NIV) says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
To run the pattern that God has marked out for me, sometimes I have to slow down. Sometimes I have to wait. I have to trust. And sometimes it will seem that I am going in circles, or not going anywhere at all.
Those are the times that I have to remember that a great cloud of witnesses in heaven are watching, their cowboy hats over their hearts. If I can trust, if I can wait, if I can follow the pattern that God has chosen for me, his banner of love will fly full of beauty and wonder above me.
The pattern I run with others will bring joy to the crowds, to the glory of the God who guides me on the ride of a lifetime.