Little John grew over the summer . . . a LOT. If he spotted Martha from far across a field, he would raise his head and bugle like a trumpet, then come charging full blast to join her. He transformed from a dainty foal, tripping across the pasture on spindly legs, to a two-hundred pound cannon ball that flew like a rocket, then to a four-hundred pound locomotive with thundering hooves. "God, I hope the brakes work!" Always, Little John would pull up short right next to Martha, blowing with excitement as he pranced around her. Everything about him seemed to bubble, "Oh, Martha, I am SO GLAD to see you!! Aren't you SO GLAD to see me, too?!!"
Fortunately, weight and age have calmed his enthusiasm a little . . . or maybe the big boy is just becoming more mature with the onset of adolescence. He still charges across the field when Martha calls him up for dinner and a good brushing, but now he has the good manners to slow to a trot well before any danger of trampling the tiny queen of his heart. However, I still don't think Little John has realized that he and Martha are not actually blood kin . . . that he has four legs while she only has two, that although they seem to communicate splendidly, their speech sounds very different. One sultry day a few weeks ago, Martha had Little John in the barn and was brushing his copper coat to a shine while he munched sweet feed. Apparently, the heat and a good meal made Little John feel in need of a rest, so he flopped down in the dust at Martha's feet. She simply continued brushing. Little John, delighted with the attention, rolled over for a nice, scratchy tummy rub. After Martha finished brushing his belly and cleaned out his conveniently-extended hooves, Little John rolled back to a sitting position, heaved himself up onto his feet, and shook, snorting with contentment. Little John has no consciousness of the important lessons and hard work that await him in the months and years ahead, as he makes the transformation from an adored child to a well-disciplined riding horse. But, he does know that he loves Martha, and that she loves him. I'm confident that knowledge will make his lessons less onerous to him.
What about me? Well beyond the carefree days of youth, I find life full of difficult lessons - lessons in patience, in trust, in sacrifice, in contentment, in repentance. Sometimes these lessons are frustrating, sometimes exhausting, sometimes heart-breaking, sometimes very painful. Often I don't understand the purpose of these lessons, as I'm sure Little John won't understand the reason for hard metal in his mouth when he first tastes a bit. But, like Little John, I do have one unshakable assurance: I know that the One who orchestrates the events of my life loves me. I am created for His pleasure, an object of His delight. Revelation 4:13 proclaims, "Thou art worthy, O lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created." Philippians 2:13 tells me, "...it is God who works in (me), both to will and to work for his good pleasure." Again, in Psalm 147:11, "...the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love." I need desperately to remember this truth, especially when faced with difficult, confusing, or painful circumstances.
C.S. Lewis writes in his book The Problem of Pain: "Man is not the center (of things). God does not exist for the sake of man. Man does not exist for his own sake. 'Thou has created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.' (Rev. 4:11) We were made not primarily that we may love God - though we were made for that too - but that God may love us, that we may become objects in which the Divine love may rest 'well pleased.' . . . What we would here and now call our 'happiness' is not the end God chiefly has in view: but when we are such as He can love without impediment, we shall in fact be happy."
One day soon, Martha and Little John will race across fields together as one beautiful, fluid unit - Martha, leaning forward with delight in the saddle, Little John stretching his powerful legs as his golden tail streams out behind him. One day, I will stand before my Father in Glory, fully conformed to the image of my brother Christ - no residue of sin in my will or my being to impede the delight and enjoyment my King and I have in each other.
* * * * *
I sat in the backyard shelling peas, enjoying the shade of an enormous oak tree. "Li-i-ittle John! Li-i-ittle John!" Martha's voice rang out from her perch atop the fence next to the barn. Immediately, a drumroll of hoofbeats echoed from the far end of the valley, accompanied by an excited whinny. Looking up, I saw Little John racing the wind to his beloved. His muscles rippled under a coat that shone like glass, and his blond mane and tail fluttered like banners as he ran. I smiled. If I understood horse-talk like Martha does, I'm certain I'd have heard these words: "Martha! Martha! I'm coming as fast as I can! Aren't you SO HAPPY to see me?!! I am SO VERY HAPPY to see you!!"