For we all stumble in many ways.
If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man,
able to bridle the whole body as well.
Now if we put the bits into the horses’ mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well.
James 3: 2-3
When I was a kid, I wanted a horse more than anything. My uncle, who raised horses, offered to give me one, but I couldn’t have one because of my father’s allergies. So, my mother gave up hours on a Saturday, every Saturday, to drive me to Westheimer Stables so I could rent a horse for one hour. The drive took one hour each way and my mom would settle in and read a book for the hour I rode.
Ever ride a rented horse? Well, I’ll tell you how it was for me, regardless of the horse, they had two speeds. Leaving the stable, the horse walked at a snail’s pace. Nothing I did, no amount of kicking or coaxing would speed up that horse. So, for the first 50 minutes of my hour we walked slowly away from the stables. It wasn’t so exciting, but it was a horse and I loved it. What really made it worthwhile though, was the second speed which came the moment I turned that horse back to the stables. What took 50 minutes to walk, took less than 10 to run! Again, nothing I did would slow that horse down. No amount of pulling on the reins phased the horse at all. Those 10 minutes were a highlight of my week!
What I learned when I had my own horses is just this: simply putting a bit in a horse’s mouth doesn’t really control him. There is more to it than just that. A horse can harden his mouth against a bit so much so that it doesn’t hurt him at all when it is pulled on. He can also raise his head up high enough that the bit that was meant to control him loses all effectiveness because the angle of his head gets the pressure of the bit off his mouth. A horse learns, however, with proper training to submit to the bit and drop his head down into a place where the bit can gently lead and guide him.
Likewise, we can harden ourselves against doing and saying what is right. We can develop a hardened heart towards someone that has hurt us and use that hurt as an excuse to hang on to unforgiveness and allow bitterness to take root. When we do that, we stumble. We can also raise our head high enough in haughtiness and pride that we are unwilling to yield our mouth and control our tongue. When we do that, we stumble. We all stumble and this verse tells us that a lot of our stumbling starts with our mouth and the things we say. The word tells us elsewhere, that the words that come from our mouth start in the heart. A heart that won’t yield itself to the gentle leading of the Spirit of God is just like that horse that refuses the leading of the bit. When we don’t yield, we are about as useful to God’s purposes as that horse is to the rider’s purposes. We can go our way or we can yield to His.
Almighty God, how ugly I can be when I don’t yield to Your ways and Your desires for me. How haughty I can become when I want to do things my way. I have felt the pressure of the bit You place in my mouth and oftentimes, I have just raised my head higher. Please forgive me. Help me to yield to Your gentle leading, Your gentle hand on the reins of my life as I submit to You and Your will. Help me to use my words to bringing life and healing and not judgment and condemnation, I ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.
picture credit: pinkequine.com