Horse Homilies, Tough Times

Something New

We tend to talk about newness mostly at New Year’s. But life rarely waits for January to throw change at us.

This summer has seen a saga of change in my life – a season of sadness and goodness that’s somehow been more beautiful for the mingling.

This past June, I said goodbye to my beloved horse of fourteen years. After seeing me through so much life, she’d reached a point where her aging body simply couldn’t keep up with her anymore. She’d earned rest, and now she has it.

Although I’d seen it coming, her passing left me feeling disoriented. Ginger had been such a constant in my life – an anchor in chaos and a comrade in peace, a symbol of God’s own faithfulness. With her gone, how would I continue to find those things?

Maybe you’ve felt similarly in seasons of major change. Maybe you’ve stood on the line between familiar and foreign territory and wondered: How do I handle the newness? How can I possibly move forward from endings into beginnings?

Here are some thoughts from my own recent experience:

Review what you’ve brought with you

After a major change, your life might look very different. You may feel like you enter the strangeness empty-handed, all good and useful things left behind in the familiar.

And it certainly is different. And some things are behind you.

But remember: This new moment follows from an old one. This is still life. Some basic rules still apply, and you have some old tools that will work perfectly for new jobs.

These “tools” can be lessons you’ve learned or skills you’ve developed. They can be comforting memories, encouraging words, or tokens of others’ love. They can be practical provisions, health, prayers, the people who love and support you.

And if you have nothing else, you have a God who loves you – and proved it. A God who offers you free access to His grace, wherever you are, for this lifetime and forever. A God who has brought you to this moment and will get you safely Home.

At the time of Ginger’s passing, I knew very little about what life without her would be like beyond a few basic conditions. And I’d just lost one of my greatest treasures – a faithful friend, willing partner, and effective teacher who never stopped giving to me.

But I still had (among many other things) the lessons she’d helped me learn. One of the most important and memorable was about following God one step at a time, keeping both eyes on Him, no matter the situation.

So I did. As I took my first steps into this uncharted territory, I did what I’d learned to do in our old training grounds. Without Ginger beside me, I did what I used to do while she was with me: I pointed my feet and eyes toward Jesus. And continuing to do so has gotten me through since.

Look for fresh ways to connect with God

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: No matter what happens, God never loses us. From wherever on this earth we seek Him, we can always find Him.

But sometimes when life’s landscape changes, finding Him feels hard – or just plain different. We half-forget where to go or how to get there. And if something that’s always made us feel close to Him – such as a special place, a loved one, or a prized blessing – changes or disappears, we can even feel like He’s left us.

Sometimes, maintaining normalcy in our devotional lives can help. Sticking with our current prayer times, Bible study habits, and so on can give us comfort and remind us of the God we serve.

On the other hand, sometimes it helps to try new (biblical) ways to seek God in the face of new circumstances. Change invites – often compels – us to deepen our faith, and new devotional ventures can help us do that. Some changes, such as those affecting daily routines, might even force us to rearrange our devotional habits. And that’s okay.

There are some basic ways, such as prayer, through which we should always seek God. But we can experiment within those areas to find God-honoring, soul-nourishing ways to connect with Him in whatever season we’re in.

It could be something as small as changing your devotional time or location. It could be setting a Scripture memorization goal, praying in a new format, or starting a list of blessings. It could be joining a faith-centered fitness group, pursuing a new volunteer opportunity, or starting a new hobby that refreshes your soul and/or serves others.

One thing that has always helped me connect with God is spending time in His creation, especially if equines are involved, and using what I learn and experience there to teach others about Him. After Ginger’s passing, I hoped to continue doing that; however, owning another full-sized horse wasn’t feasible.

I was open to trying something new. It also happened that for the past few years I’d had a growing interest in donkeys.

And so, about a month ago, Dulcie came into my life. She is not a horse, and she will never replace Ginger. But already, in her unique way, she’s giving me (and others) joy and teaching me lessons about God’s provision.

If you do decide you want to try something new, seek God’s guidance and wisdom. Remember, the point is to grow in your relationship with Him – not to simply fill time or be like someone else.

Hold on to the good from your past. But don’t try to force your present and future to look like the past. See the opportunity in newness, the open door in the emptiness.

God is beyond that door, just as He is behind you.

Keep your eyes on your Constant

As you journey through life, the scenes and terrain may change. But God never does.

You may learn new things about Him, yourself, life. You may need to connect with Him in fresh ways. But His nature is the same. He’s still the Lord Who Provides, the God Who Sees, the Good Shepherd, our Redeemer, God With Us. He’s still I Am, our “compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love and truth” (Exodus 34:6, CSB).

He’s Omega as well as Alpha, the Last as well as the First, the End as well as the Beginning, the Finisher as well as the Author of our faith. He who was still is, and always will be.

And more than anything else, keeping your eyes on Him is what will get you through any circumstance.

When you’re not sure where or how to move, look to Him. When you can’t move, look to Him.

We do this by continuing to live out our faith and follow the calling He’s placed on our lives. We do it by asking for and applying His guidance and power in everything we do. We do it by prioritizing our relationship with Him above everything else, loving Him most and obeying Him alone.

And when we can do nothing, we commit everything to His care, trusting Him to be with us and work things out for good.

When Ginger passed, I felt like I’d lost one of my clearest expressions of God’s presence in my life. I felt like Ginger and I had walked together for a large part of an epic journey, and now I had to go on without her.

I chose to see this new chapter of my life as an opportunity to learn more about who God wants me to be, and how to follow and trust Him in new situations. I chose to keep seeking Him, to live His will for my life to the best of my ability.

I knew there would be other travelling companions, old and new, along the way. And always there would be the Friend and Leader who goes ahead, behind, and beside me. He is the Goal of my quest, and my Guide and Provider through it.

He and I have walked a long way together. And I’m going to keep walking.

Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

–Hebrews 12:1b-2 (CSB)

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