Our daughter is blessed to receive horse riding lessons from two amazing people here in Northern Michigan. I’ve written a couple of blogs about their horses (and even one about their dog) in the past because they are teaching my daughter about leadership and life; they just happen to be using horsemanship as the tool to convey those lessons.
One of the fun parts of CJ’s lessons is that Traci and I have the privilege of serving on their property as a means of giving back to Marc and Kaye. Because I’m a city boy and lack even the most basic of farm skills, I am happy to help with cleaning out horse stalls or scooping up the pasture poop. These tasks require little technical skill and I imagine are usually pretty low on the list of things people want to do, so I’m happy to spend an hour in stalls or in the field.
This past week, after filling a trailer with horse-crement, I hopped on the little tractor and distributed the horse poop out on the trails that surround the pasture. The process was quite amusing. I drove the tractor around the pathways while a mechanism in the trailer moves poop to back to these fan-like blades that fling the poop out behind the trailer. Check out the video of my poop distribution ride in action.
About half-way through the process, I learned a very interesting lesson: flinging too fast can result in being smacked upside the head with horse poop.
You see, when the trailer was a little over half way empty, I decided the process was taking a little too long, so I shifted the tractor into a faster speed. The mechanism that moves the poop to the back of the trailer, and the chain that controls the fan-like blades are all controlled by a little gear box that comes off the tractor. The faster the tractor travels, the fast the mechanism moves the poop back and the faster those blades spin.
Incidentally, when the blades move faster, the poop flies further and in a much less controlled fashion. Suddenly I found myself being pelted with horse poop. I don’t mean just one or two little horse bombs coming my way, it started to rain doo doo. The shock of the poop shower took a moment to settle in and to make the connection that my speed on the tractor was the cause of the problem. I slowed down and the poop stopped falling on me.
I laughed as I finished up my task and took the tractor and trailer back to their parking spot. I wiped off the poop chunks still on my shirt and realized a valuable lesson: getting rid of poop properly, takes time.
When Kaye saw me dusting off, she laughed and said, “Did you learn an important lesson today?” I sure had. And more than just about scooping poop!
Like that little trailer I was driving around, each of us has experiences in life that can load us up with burdens, hurts and loss. Sometimes we inflict those things on ourselves and other times they are loaded up on our life-trailer by family members, bosses or even close friends. We’ve all been there in the past, and each of us will be there again in the future because life isn’t how it was originally designed to be.
When sin entered the world in Genesis 3, everything changed. Instead of living in a perfect world in a perfect relationship with God and with each other, life got messy. And sometimes that mess just piles up and because we carry it day after day, it becomes cumbersome. Then, when the burden gets so heavy we can barely lift it any more, we have to unload it and sort through the mess(es) we’ve endured. In the messes we find lessons, we find friendship and we always find that God is in it with us.
A little over two years ago, when our whole world was turned upside down, everyone in our family ended up carrying some pretty hefty burdens. I suddenly had to deal with the feelings of betrayal, the loss of perceived value, the sense of my own personal worth, the heart-break of telling my family that we were moving again, and the hardship of trying to pay bills, find work and figure out what God was trying to do in my life. The life-trailer was overflowing.
10 months after the job change and move, we were finally living a “normal” life in a new town, with the kids enrolled in new schools and Traci and I were back in a bit of a groove. For the first time since the job loss, I took a moment to process and I realized I couldn’t pull my trailer any more. I was discouraged. My heart was beaten down. I had lost motivation and passion.
I met with a counselor for a couple of sessions and she reminded me of a very important lesson: removing the poop in your life takes time. If you try to go too fast, you end up throwing it everywhere, it ends up impacting others, and you probably miss out on the valuable lessons you could/should have learned through the process. Up to the point of our first meeting, I had taken my filled up life-trailer and just tried to pull it harder and further, believing I could carry on as normal without any ramifications. My counselor reminded me that loss is real, betrayal is painful, and sorting those things out takes time.
In Luke 13:6-9, Jesus tells a parable about a fruitless tree. The tree had been unproductive for three years, and the owner is ready to have it removed. But in verse 8, the man who takes care of the tree says, “Sir…leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it.” Three years of fruitlessness and the man who cared for the tree knew this: getting something restored to usefulness takes a lot of time. We aren’t told, but I like to think that the tree was unproductive because it had been damaged. Maybe it had been ravaged by some storm or by a careless caravan of wanderers, but whatever the cause it was damaged.
The vineyard caregiver had been watching this tree’s health and he knew, one more year of care and this tree could be fruitful again.
Are you walking around wounded? Have you been hurt, betrayed, handed a loss or have that feeling that your life-trailer is overflowing with the suffering that comes from a world that isn’t how it’s supposed to be? Take heart, and take time. The Almighty Creator God of the universe knows your aches. He sent His Son to experience the pain of life so that He could advocate for you and me as one who understands, experientially, what we’re enduring. And He offers grace and mercy to help in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).
I’ve been slowly unloading a trailer for 18 months now, and I’m thankful that as I look back it’s almost empty. I know life will fill it up again, and I rest equally certain that my God will help me unload it once again when the time comes. Don’t shortchange the process of grief, loss or pain. Take time to sort through the life-trailer you’ve been pulling around so you can learn valuable lessons and, as the parable teaches us, be made more fruitful for the Kingdom.
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!