Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
While I kept silence, my body 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. Selah
Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah
Therefore let all who are faithful offer prayer to you; at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters shall not reach them.
You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with glad cries of deliverance. Selah
I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding, whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle, else it will not stay near you.
Many are the torments of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the Lord.
Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.
“Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding, whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle, else it will not stay near you.”
Clearly the psalmist has never been to a wild horse ranch.
Last August Micah and I took my mother-in-law to Deerwood Ranch Wild Horse Ecosanctuary outside of Laramie, Wyoming. The ranch is home to unadoptable Bureau of Land Management horses, all geldings. For whatever reason these horses are not viable to ride or work. Their temper cannot be curbed by bit or bridle. They are wild and untamable.
Our guide, the owner of the ranch, took us out on an ATV. He’s a middle-aged man whose love for this land at the foot of the Snowy Mountains is rivaled only by his affection for these horses. He drove us over prairie grass and rocks into the middle of a field filled with hundreds of horses and turned off the motor. We sat in near silence listening to the wind and hooves on dirt. Curious horses walked up to the ATV and sniffed us. Mostly they stood close to each other, rubbing heads and mains.
The owner told us stories of how these horses moved in small packs. Each one, he said, had at least one friend they called “home.” He spoke of a horse who was injured by a barbed wire fence and how another horse stood guard until help arrived. These horses carry a deep understanding of each other. They are wise beyond our knowing. And they are fierce, capable of withstanding the long, harsh Wyoming winters in a way that baffles the ranch owner.
So, I respectfully disagree with the psalmist. Do be like a horse, especially the wild, untamable kind. With Thoreau, I say, “We need the tonic of wildness...At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.” All we need do is look at nature to see it is good and necessary we maintain our wildness.
The psalmist is right, however, about silence. Keeping our wild, untamable self silent will only cause our body to waste away, groaning all day long. My body, specifically my back, gave out after years of trying to silence the parts of myself that felt too feral to fit inside the church. All this did was alienate me from myself and God.
God, I imagine, isn’t out to tame us with bit and bridle but to offer us a sanctuary for the wild in all of us.
Are there ways you tame or silence your wild self?
Where can you find a “home” with friends who feed your wild soul?