Drop the Reins

“The Lord is my shepherd.” Psalm 23:1

Do you know what to do if you get lost while riding a horse?

Neither did I until I heard this story from an acquaintance.

Alicia is an avid and experienced rider. She and a friend took their own horses to an unfamiliar piece of land. It was many acres, with rolling hills, woods, and water. All the elements to make for a fine morning excursion.

After riding for more than an hour, they became disoriented. After a few uncertain efforts to find the right way they realized they could be wandering around for quite a while. At this point, Alicia’s friend said, “drop the reins.” They both did, and the horses confidently made their way back to the barn.

“Drop the reins.”

Life is full of unfamiliar territory. We often find ourselves in situations where we simply don’t know how to make things better, how to help someone else, or how to solve a thorny problem. In fact, many times our efforts to arrange and control matters and people, even benevolently, results in more chaos.

What do we do then? Usually we grip the reins of life more tightly, jerking this way and that. Certain that if we just increase our frenetic efforts then somehow everything will turn out all right. After all, “I am the master of my fate! The captain of my soul!”

Not really.

One of the most uncomfortable discoveries in life is realizing how little control you have over so many things, including careers, health, children, spouses, etc. In fact, if it’s on the outside of you, then you need to forget controlling it.

I’ve too often wrangled life, sometimes getting my way, but not feeling any lasting peace from all the battles. Only when I let God lead do I find my way home. When I drop the reins means I  stop worrying so much, and I start trusting more. I accept that God is in charge of my life and this world. Not me.

The Bible, as it often does, presents us with a beautiful paradox. On the one hand we are to ask, seek, and knock. We are to strive, pursue, and build. But we are also to trust, abide, wait, and lose. Jesus’ most common invitation to disciples is “follow me.” A follower doesn’t lead. A follower follows. If the Lord is my shepherd, then I relinquish the right to determine which pasture I want Him to lead me to.

Some of my golden dreams have tarnished. Some people have let me down. I’m not as strong, wise, or influential as I might have been. But I’ve discovered that my desperate wanting inevitably led me to disappointment. When I want, I get lost. When I let God lead, I do not want. I drop the reins, and He leads me home.


Dr. Terry Ellis                                                                                                                         November 30, 2018