As has been the case just about every day of the Feast of Tabernacles so far, there has been a message with deep personal resonance . Today yet again, a sermon speaker got personal and started talking about his dream of wild horses. When most people read Isaiah 11:6-9, they have certain animals in mind and a certain picture: “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” When most people read this passage or reflect on it, they think about the fact that there will be no predation in the world to come, something we can all long for deeply. Yet the speaker, in speaking about this passage and others, thought about his love of wild horses, and his wish for them to be wild no longer.
This wish was expressed in a deeply symbolic way. Not only was there a video of how a skittish filly was able to accept the gentle leadership of the horse whisperer in only four minutes, but the author talked about how on her deathbed his mother told him, when he was complaining about abusive ministers never seeming to learn their lesson in the context of the 2010 troubles, “When are you going to stop running from God and become the man you were meant to be?” The speaker said the question haunted him for years–it would have haunted me too. He says he understood what his mother meant when he was riding an abused horse, skittish and easily startled, who was tense and nervous, and he told the horse that he needed to relax, because he had never done anything to hurt the horse, and so had done nothing to deserve that sort of reaction. In hearing that, I could not help but weep, as quietly as possible, in the knowledge of my own skittishness and its etiology.
The whole sermon as a whole was an extended metaphor of mankind’s relationship to God, and to authority in general, as being related to that of wild mustangs in the open range. There is the fact that wild horses live far shorter lives than domesticated horses because they know no rest or peace, and are continually on the run from hostile threats, or what they perceive to be hostile threats, even among those who would be kind and gentle with them. There are the factors that make horses skittish, such as abuse. There is the fact that people who are not to blame often suffer as a result of the wrongs that others have done in terms of difficulties with trust. The fact that I can deeply and painfully relate to these matters made the message all the more powerful, and the fact that the sermon speaker clearly had dealt with abused animals with gentleness and compassion made him all the more empathetic to people who are suffering from the same difficulties, and to be sure, there are many of us around who can relate, as I could gather from the amount of people I talked to afterward who commented on their own weeping during the message, whether for themselves, for others, or for both. After all, horses are no more meant to be wild than we as people are, and a large part of the nature of human beings and other beings on this earth that will have to be changed for no one to hurt or destroy in God’s kingdom is the fear and wariness and skittishness that results from trauma and abuse. For our world to be made whole, we and everything else in that world must be made whole as well.
It is far easier to prevent brokenness than to rebuild it, and yet the way that God has chosen is redemption and restoration. That which is wounded, that which is damaged, that which is broken, is to be made whole again, free from the lingering effects of the abuse and horrors that have been suffered and blessed as a result with compassion for the broken and with the credibility in one’s own experience to reach out and to be a part of God’s redemption for other people. And there are few messages that are more practical in relating to the millennium. After all, we have a vision about the way the world will be, and most of us are painfully aware of our brokenness, and sometimes the brokenness of others insofar as we develop any sort of emotional intimacy with them, and yet it is hard to understand the purpose of what we are going through now in light of the way we know the world ought to be and will eventually be, and yet we can only get there by submitting to the Lord of the Sabbath, whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light, in stark contrast to the burdens so many of us bear as bravely and competently as we can.
 See, for example: