When you’re runnin’ on empty,
and barely hanging on,
there is a country
in the inner being
where the power to ride the wildness
awaiting your return!
An 18 year-old boy was seriously ill and weak for several days upon arriving in Guatemala. One of his first meals had been some poorly cooked pork in a small village named Panzos. His fever shot up to 105, and his miserable stomach could hold nothing. He had come to vaccinate children in the early 1970’s, and arrived there in the interior of the country, far away from any real medical clinic. He hadn’t planned to start the two-week trip fearing for his life.
On the first day of beginning to recover, after three days of illness, he gained the strength to get out of bed and walk around the village. Beside a stream he came across a large boulder. An old scripture came to mind and brought a simple and comforting sense of Presence: “You are my Rock and my Deliverer.”
But the guide assigned to help the young partners of Amigos de las Americas was getting edgy. There was no more time to waste. So he gathered the vaccination supplies and led three horses to the makeshift clinic where the young men were housed. The guide took the lead horse. The young men mounted the other horses, which mimicked the direction and pace of the lead horse.
When you are 18, and have no experience with horses, you simply pretend to know what you are doing. Pretending can work for a while, when the stress is low and no one is really watching you anyway. As the horses moved slowly out of the village and across the countryside pretending was just fine.
Then the guide decided to pick up the pace. The faster he rode, the faster our horses followed. Soon we were at a gallop, and instinctively just hanging on. As we approached a river whose current was strong, it seemed obvious we would need to slow down to cross. But Manuel and his lead horse had other ideas.
As our horses bolted into the quick-moving river I was sure I would fall in. It was bad enough when the gallop slammed your body onto the horses back over and over. But now, with the river water flying up into our eyes and drenching our clothes, all illusion of being “in control” was lost. Clinging to the horse’s neck was the only option.
As if that wasn’t intense enough, we exited the river, miraculously still on horseback, and Manuel led us all straight up the mountain-side as though we were racing. By now the inaudible instructions for this life-lesson were so very clear: surrender to the power of the guide, and just hold on! That is how I first learned a truth that has returned in many forms through the years. It is a truth I need right now. So how do we find the power to ride the wildness?
When facing wildness, experiences that push us to our limits, we must:
- give up pretending to know how to handle things by ourselves;
- lose the illusion of being “in control”; and
- surrender to the power of the Guide, who lives in the country of the inner being.
- Oh yeah. Sometimes you just hold on!
Meditation: Ephesians 3:14-20 has a great prayer that God will help us to become mighty through the Spirit in the inner being, filled with all the fullness of God’s very essence, so that God’s power operating in us will be able to do “far more abundantly than all that we ask or think….” Imagine that today, and I will do the same.
For more stories like this see Monks in the World: Seeking God in a Frantic Culture.