The first horse I was responsible for was an Arabian with a broken leg. Beau was an older horse, probably closer to nineteen or so, and he belonged to the ministry with which I volunteer. I lived on the same property where he was boarded so I took it upon myself to muck his stall and just spend time with him.
He had an incredible gift of drawing out the hearts of broken people. Even my autistic nephew connected with this horse.
In October of 2017 his pain had gotten to such a degree we had to put him down. I'd never been present for any animal being put to sleep, much less a horse. It was one of the most difficult things to witness, and the most heartbreaking. It was just weeks before my husband and I separated.
Less than a month later another horse took his paddock, ironically also named Beau. He was broken too, but in a very different way. He didn't trust people and was big enough to intimidate most people into giving him his way. I couldn't bear to look at him for days. It didn't take long to see the attitude in him was a mirror of the teenager I used to be - the one that still showed her face every now and then.
Still, he became my project. I became his person. I did hours upon hours of ground work with him and building trust before I attempted to get on his back. I sat in his paddock with him, brushed and groomed him and just stood with him. By the time I started to ride him I'd already given my heart to him.
His eyes slowly changed from seeing me with wariness and fear to crossing a pasture to greet me at his gate. He used to panic anytime I'd ask something from him he didn't already know how to do, as if anticipating a beating if he didn't get it right the first time. Slowly, his panic turned into a try, and then another try, and then he became eager to please.
He just needed someone with the patience, determination and firm boundaries to give him a chance. He needed a lot of love.
For various reasons Beau wasn't able to become a ministry-ready horse for the public, and yet in the last twelve months his ministry was me. He was my project from the day my ex-husband and I separated, through some big losses in friendships, my divorce, moving, a couple of new jobs, and more transitions. He was a steady vessel I could pour into, a place where every ounce of stress and pain could be washed out and I could focus on him and him alone.
He was a place of rest, even as he tried my patience and character and led me into more growth as a horse-woman than I could have ever had with any other horse. We changed his name to Beau-Rapha shortly after he was brought into the ministry, though we all still called him Beau. To me, however, he was always Beau-Rapha. God used every day with him to heal pain in my heart I didn't realize I needed healed.
It's October again, almost exactly one year to the day we had to put our beloved Arabian down. And tomorrow Beau-Rapha is being sold. He'll go to a loving home with a fourteen-year-old girl who will love him and take him through all the disciplines of showing he has shown he loves. She'll pour her heart into him, and in time he'll give himself to her, too.
I said goodbye to Beau-Rapha a couple of days ago, and as I stood there with my fingers in his thickening winter coat, buried my face in the warmth of his neck and cried, it felt like another death all over again.
As much as we don't like pain, pain isn't the problem. Pain points us to the fact that something is wrong in this world, and drive us into the only One who is right. Ignoring pain, numbing it, or running away from it doesn't help matters. The only solution to pain is to face it from the arms of the One who IS love, who IS right, who IS good. To hand it over to Him and rest.
I was going to get up and go for a run early this morning, but I managed to sleep through all three alarms - something I never do - and woke in time to take a shower and have some time in the Word before going to work. An invitation from my loving Abba to just rest. Don't run today - just be still.
I'm still learning how to do that in different kinds of pain. Being still in persecution is one thing, being still in grief is something different. I'm thankful that God is still God no matter the type of pain, and He is just as sure and solid in every season.
He invites us to come to him when we're weak and weary (Matthew 11:28-29) and to let him teach us in those moments. He comforts us in all our troubles (2 Corinthians 1:4) so we can comfort people in their troubles with the same comfort God has given us. This means we don't have to rely on God alone, in isolation, for our comfort. While we can come boldly to the throne of grace to receive help when we need it most (Hebrews 4:16), He will use His body to provide what we need when we need it.
Sometimes that comfort isn't even about need, as much as - in His mercy - He knows what would help and gives it to us because He loves us. Pain isn't the problem. The problem is us trying to handle pain on our own, which we were never meant nor designed to do.
Press into Jesus. I'm speaking to myself as much as you in this moment: let it out so you can let Him in.