Surrendering to the Good Master
Words + Photos BY LAUREN KOSKI
The little horse-loving girl inside me sighed with content as I settled into a worn, leather saddle for the first time in years.
My legs wrapped around the horse underneath me and I tried to gently squeeze her forward, but she threw her head in the air, biting at the bit with her yellowed ivories.
Contentment dissipated and frustration began building inside me.
Instead of pushing from her strong, back legs, the energy from her forward motion moved into her front legs and she pulled herself along nearly without me. Under the saddle, her back swayed unhealthily into a U shape.
For the non-equestrian, “collection” is the way a horse carries her head, back, and legs. Like a thousand-pound spring, the energy produced from the horse’s hindquarters is gathered as elastic energy throughout her frame, ready to be released like an arrow through a bow.
While there are a lot of factors associated with this, a horse essentially becomes more pliable for collection when it “gives,” or surrenders, to its rider’s cues.
More often than not, horses will stiffen and refuse to be guided by their masters. You can usually trace this back to moments before the ride when a horse decides whether its rider is fit to be the master, or not.
So I wrapped my legs around this horse tighter and shortened the reins. I knew full well that she just needed to collect all that energy properly.
It’d take some work, some struggle, some humbling of her individualism, but it was the best I knew for her. And now I see it’s the best my own Master has for me.
In those moments, I’ve found I resemble a high-headed, uncollected horse.
When my idols of perfectionism or reputation are threatened, I throw my head in the air, snarling. When I stumble in my sin, I grasp for any escape. When my Master gives me the energy to use, I waste it.
Psalm 32 is a maskil, or psalm of instruction, about guilt, shame, forgiveness, and the freedom found in surrendering to the true Master.
“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. ” ( Ps. 32:1-5, ESV)
We’ve been offered forgiveness, but so often we stubbornly soak in the shame of our sin or even refuse to acknowledge our sin at all.
I moved back to my hometown and got back in the saddle again three months ago. In a lot of ways, sure, it’s like riding a bike, but my hands, legs, and brain have rusted over from disuse, and saddle soreness is very real. I was in need of some major tuning up that first month. I’d go out to ride and forget a key piece of equipment, certain riding instructions sounded foreign, and I almost overdosed a sick horse!
Before moving home, I was living in Texas as a newspaper reporter — a full-time position offering security to my reputation and pride as a journalist. Paradoxically, it was in this job-secure environment that I finally gave up major strongholds in my life and gained a new understanding of God’s grace. I felt I was finally all in.
But I was still prideful.
When the newspaper unsurprisingly hit hard times, I quit my job and moved home to work at the ranch. My purpose in life was turned upside down and emptied out, and I was lost, striving to hold onto my pride, fighting for continued perfection, and believing it was up to me to fix everything.
God gave me a lot to work with: He showed me His plans, introduced me to new people, and provided what I needed, but I ignored Him.
So I found myself sitting on a sassy horse, humbled.
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you. Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord. Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” (Ps. 32:8-11)
Months after our first ride together, my presence in the barn usually initiates an endearing nicker from this headstrong mare. I saddle her up, lead her into the arena, and ask her, again, if she’ll trust me. She’s beginning to surrender to my command now; we’ve become a team. More often than not, I find myself discussing life with my Master while I’m riding her.
Headstrong kindreds, please don't become strung out in the fight. Surrender to Him. Let Him lead. Give yourself grace, knowing it's His power that's within you, not your own.
Our Master is good; He'll train us properly.