I walked into a dark canyon a few days ago--feeling sorry for myself and feeling angry, the side effects from current medical treatments making inroads into my life that I didn't appreciate. I told a colleague, "For me now, it's sort of like being in a drought-infested geography. I don't have a lot of energy, so I must conserve, conserve, conserve. Can't water my yard, or I won't have enough water to drink." I knew I had to walk myself out of the dusky jaws of that canyon; its walls did not create a healthy environment. To begin my departure, I used a coping skill I define as "Looking Back." What has helped me in the past to better transcend feelings of anger and self-pity?
This question can sometimes send me back to my childhood-- asking what things brought me hope or pleasure. I thought back to fourth grade, my nine-year-old self. Every day I rode my royal purple, Schwinn Stingray bicycle to school, banana seat and streamers sprouting from the handle bars. And sometimes on my ride home, I'd stop at a large field, enclosed with wire fencing. Horses pastured there, and I liked to look at them. I wished that I could pet them, but they never ventured near me. Until one day. I often saved a snack from my lunch to eat on the way home. I stood near the fence, and was about to take a bite from my apple when a brown horse trotted up to me and placed his head over the fence, his face very close to my head.
I startled, but was not afraid. I instinctively ran my hand down his face, feeling the nub of fur and wiry whiskers. He didn't back away from me and seemed to enjoy the encounter as much as I did. Then I thought of offering him my apple. I felt afraid to place the apple under his mouth as I'd seen his teeth. Yet, I wanted to give him something. I placed the apple in my hand and held it under his mouth. He gently scooped the apple from me and began to chew. And I never knew such velvety softness as his lips grazed my opened palm. I wished I had another apple so I could feel again his gentle touch. The horse became a faithful friend that fourth grade year. He provided solace after a long day; I talked to him about the hard days when I was teased, or the good days when a won the spelling bee. Sometimes I had an apple for him, other days I didn't. But when the horse saw my bicycle, he would always canter over to greet me.
As I looked back and remembered the genial horse, the canyon now was a black dot in the distance. I thought how much the encounter with the horse reminded me of my experience with Jesus now as an adult. He is faithful to meet me when "I ride up to the fence on my bike," so to speak. He places his head next to mine and desires to listen to me. And he delights in what I have to offer him, and gives me back much more, his kindness enticing me to stay a little longer. And when I have nothing to give, he continues to approach me. I can talk to him about the fatigue, the drought, and He doesn't scold me. He merely asks me to keep coming back as his good-hearted presence is miles away from those bleak canyon walls.