I recently came across a story about Monty Roberts, a horse trainer in California. This story has sparked in me a confession and a plea.
Monty grew up the son of a horse trainer in Montana. As a child he witnessed hundreds if not thousands of mustangs "broken." What Monty witnessed as a boy was the traditional means of training a horse. To break a horse meant to literally crush his spirits into rideable submission. The process was grueling for the horse and the master alike.
This was very troubling to young Monty. He believed there had to be a better way to train a horse. What is so interesting about his discovery was that mustangs are much like humans...they need others. He noticed that when mustangs had been cut off from the herd they became sick and would often times die. But the mustangs that remained with the herd would not only survive, they would thrive.
In an attempt to understand these horses he jumped into the pin and became a friend to the isolated horse. He began to understand that an isolated horse was a vulnerable horse. He says, "being isolated from the herd is a death sentence." While he was in the corral with a raging, lonely horse Monty refused to make eye contact with the animal and would constantly move away from him, whispering to the horse. This random and unique gesture would actually work to draw the horse to himself.
There are two ways to break a horse...to scream and force the horse into submission or to love and listen to the horse into community. One takes a matter of minutes...the other can take a lifetime. One establishes authority...the other establishes trust.
I don't know about you but this story overlaps with humanity in so many different ways. Sadly though, for some this story is all too familiar of their experience with the church. Often we hear stories of those who were "broken" into Christian community instead of "whispered" into it.
When we read the gospels we don't see a screaming cowboy, we see a whispering Christ. Often his teachings (parables) were communicated in a manner that only few could understand...even the disciples sometimes asked for understanding. But when we look at his life we see a man who went to the margins, a man who went to the scream-at-able and he had dinner with them, he drank with them...he loved them.
We treat others as if they are untamed horses in desperate need of wrangling. So we corral them into our churches and preach to crush their spirits in hopes they would become tamed.
But what if we went to them. What if we saddled up and rode out into the wilderness, into the unknown where safety and comfort are utterly abandoned? What if we became their friends, true friends...not "project" friends?
Monty Roberts whispers into the deepest longings of a horse. He provides a safe place in the midst of the unrest of isolation.
If we embrace this philosophy of whispering an alternative reality in the midst of darkness, brokenness, and isolation we may give people a glimpse of Christ. If we learn to love people for exactly who they are we may get to tell a better story. A story of redemption, renewal and belonging.
At the beginning of every new year or new semester we are confronted with a desire or tempation to be better than we were the year or semester before. So we grab a moleskin and write out resolutions and goals for a "New Year you." They look something like this:
Every year it is the same thing. We look back on the year that was with disappointment and frustration over those pesky 10 pounds, our GPA's, and the dust on our Bibles. Is anybody tired of resolutions? I know I am. Do they ever stop?!
Instead of resolutions what if we set out to change the rhythms of our lives or to create new ones?
When I hear the word rhythm, I immediately think of music. The beat of the drum. The rift of an electric guitar. The tremolo of a piano. There is something especially beautiful about the harmony and rhythm of good music.
I also think of the life of a Christian. It was through the rhythms of the day (manna and water), rhythms of the week (sabbath), and rhythms of the year (Passover) that God sustained His people through the Exodus (Exodus 12-17). In the Gospels, Jesus gives a new rhythm to his disciples...love God and love others (Matthew 22:34-40).
What would a rhythm as a disciple of Jesus look like?
I came across a great article that offers some very helpful ideas on a rhythm of discipleship. Read the article here. Below is the rhythm of discipleship that they offer.
This Up, In, Out discipleship model offers a new rhythm as followers of Jesus. So, let's put this in context of rhythms over reoslutions.
If the resolution is to get better grades...the rhythm is studying. If the resolution is lose 10 pounds...the rhythm is exercise and healthy eating. If the resolution is to grow in likeness of Christ...the rhythm is UP, IN, OUT. Resolutions are self-centered. Rhythms are self-giving.
Please hear me, I am not saying I am against resolutions or goals. Actually I am all for them! What I am saying is that we cannot expect to set the same resolutions without changing our rhythms of life and expect different results. Resolutions divorced from rhythms are not realistic and usually lead to frustration and disappointment.
We wanted to take a second and say welcome to SMU and for some...welcome to Dallas! Events like Night at the Club are great but it is sometimes hard to land in a community when bombarded with flyers, goldfish and candy. If you picked up a notebook or a pair of sunglasses Saturday night, chances are you met someone who is involved with THE HILL.
Come see us Wednesday, August 29th @ 8pm in The Varsity (Lower level of Hughes-Trigg) to share a free meal and hear The Heart of Who We Are on campus. So Welcome to SMU...we are so glad you are here! See you on Wednesday nights! Check out the link above to read more about our mission on campus.
-The Hill Team