I remember as a kid the first time I got to ride a mechanical bull. I grew up horse-back riding, so I felt pretty confident I could stay on. The guy running the machine gave me some quick advice, threw me up on its back, and started up the bull. My goal was to stay seated until the bell rang and my ride was over. The operator started moving the bull slowly; I stayed on. He sped up the bull a bit; I stayed on. He began making more erratic movements, turning the bull in crazier directions; somehow I still managed to stay on. Just as I was getting pretty confident I was gonna get to the end of the bell, no problem, he sped up the bull again and off I flew!
As I pulled myself up off the padded mats, I made my way over to the operator. I was sure he must’ve cranked that bull up pretty far. It went all the way up to a 10 in difficulty, so I was figuring I’d reached an 8 or a 9 at least. The guy said he had put me all the way up to a … gasp … 5. A lousy 5! Yes, I was humbled. I began to realize being a strong horse woman didn’t make me a strong bull rider – that would require a lot of patience and practice.
Learning to let God lead me has been challenging in much the same way. Initially I thought, Trust God? Of course! That should be easy. I know He’ll do a much better job leading my life than I will. I’d grab a hold of the reins, full of determination to stay the course until the bell rang and I exited this life for the next. But life would kick and buck back, and I would find myself getting thrown away from faithful choices and instead landing down on the mat surrounded by fear, doubt and selfish choices. I began to realize this trust thing God was asking me to do wasn’t going to be as simple as I first thought.
It’s easy to trust God when life is good. What is far harder is to continue to trust, to keep my heart and mind open, especially when I’ve been hurt, taken advantage of or made to feel less, sometimes even by people who would profess to love God. Yet it is in those very moments, when the heat is up and staying seated is the greatest challenge, that my faith has grown the most. With each obstacle, each twist, each failure God has taught me how to navigate through the mine fields of life more adeptly, not only maintaining my faith and my peace, but actually watching them grow.
This growth, this ability to grab a hold of peace and grace in the midst of challenge, is the inheritance Christ has for each of us. We are told, “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed,” (1 Peter 1:6-7). And faith has been the gold in my life. The more I have invested in it, the more I have watched it multiply and grow into an abundance of joy and peace that flow through my life. My walk with God becomes something more real, more tangible; it moves away from mere words and becomes a rich relationship full of heart-felt truths that have been transformative.
Now when the bell rings and my life on this earth comes to a close, I know Jesus will be standing there by the ring. Fatherly pride will be etched in His face as He comes to collect me home. It won’t matter if He finds me on the mat, bruised and dirtied, or riding life at a level 10 with a big grin on my face. Why? Jesus doesn’t care about how skilled I am at being faithful. What touches His heart, what makes Him grin, is the fact that I kept on riding until the very end.
For Further Thought: Think of some of the challenges in your life that have emotionally thrown you out of the saddle. What have you learned from these situations? What would God say He wants you to learn from them? How can you take a faith perspective when you face new challenges moving forward?