While Randa and I were leading our two geldings, Gin and Earl, over to the pasture the other day, I was reminded of a common phrase from the realm of equestrian language: “leading on a loose rope.”
Per our morning custom, I was leading Earl, the flashy American Saddlehorse. For most of the hundred-foot walk from the round pen to the pasture, Earl walked beside me. As we neared the narrow gate, I moved in front and held the lead rope behind me. While I stepped through and into the pasture, I could feel nothing but the weight of the rope in my hand. There was no pressure, no pull, no resistance. Earl was “leading on a loose rope.”
That happens only when a horse is attuned to the handler and is walking in the same direction at the same pace. Not pushing ahead, not lagging behind, not pulling to the side. The tighter the rope, the greater the indication of resistance. When you see a loose loop hanging down between the horse and its handler, you know they’re in step together.
I think that makes a mighty fine figure for what it means to “walk in step with the Spirit.” When we are in harmony with his leading, guiding, and teaching, we don’t feel that we are being pulled along. There’s not a sense of being jerked or coerced into a certain direction or place. Rather, we feel within us a notion of “being at the right place” or “doing the right thing.” Something inside us, deep within, something other than routine rational thought, gives us a sense to do a particular thing, call a particular person, stop and help in a particular situation.
I won’t claim that I feel that every hour or even every day. But I do sense a peace in my heart, mind, and soul that lets me know I am in God’s will. And I will also say that every single time in my life when I have felt that slight tugging or leading, and followed, it has always worked out for good.
“Leading on a loose rope” or “walking in step with the Spirit” is key to harmony, a peaceful submission to God’s direction in our lives. I am fully convinced that this makes it more pleasant for the Spirit and for us.
And, by the way, I have fairly vivid memories of those times when God had to yank the rope so hard it nearly jerked a knot in my tail!