Through the trails and trees we weave, content to slowly inhale forest and hear hooves clomp dirt beneath us. We came to a long straight stretch of gravel road. I know the Rider has wanted to race since he got Dolly Brown. She’s an Arab, and a couple hands taller than my Lady. I considered it mentally before speaking… if we run, a deer or bear or squirrel… could jump out at any moment and cause one or both horses to shoot sideways. What if I got hurt? What if I had an accident that caused me to never ride again? And yet, it had been too long since I flew, astride her back. Too long. It was risky. What if I fall? But what if I fly?
I smiled sideways at the Rider, “Let’s race!” His face was surprise, then grin. “Ok.” I take hold of the reins, and with one click of my tongue, we took flight. Zero to 60 we joke. Hooves pounding the hard ground. My girl has three speeds: walk alert, power walk home, and spread your wings to fly.
I’ve always known she was fast. But in the past the Rider only ever had a shorter (and slightly rounder) horse we could compare to. His name was Lightning because when he was young, he had a white bolt down his nose. The name did not reflect his speed capability (or lack thereof). But he always gave it his all, and his personality was his prime. I miss him.
But now the Rider has Dolly Brown. I had to prepare myself for a possible loss. I glanced back over my shoulder at them, the Rider on Dolly Brown. My Lady was outrunning a beautiful, taller, likes-to-be-in-the-lead Arabian. I smile. I can feel her joy beneath me. She loves it, too. I stretch my arms straight out as she glides. We fly on. And I am fully alive.
We slow. Horses puffing hard, and the comment from second place? He says, “At least now I can lose in style.”
So that decision moment when I considered the risks: animal jumping out, falling, injury. They were all real possibilities. But they didn’t happen. Not a one. So were they actually real? When I worry about all the what-if’s, sometimes I can talk myself right out of trying anything at all. In those decision moments, I find myself with two habitual ways of thinking that are rooted in fear:
1) If I expect good things, I am setting myself up for disappointment.
No. Not with prayer in it. Not if I leave the outcome in God’s hands and believe Him when He tells me He wants to give me good gifts.
If you then, imperfect as you are, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in Heaven give good things to those who ask Him!
2) I have to think of everything that could possibly go wrong, so I will be prepared when something bad happens.
Recently I have come to label this lie in my thought life as false preparation. It is a scheme of the enemy, and a hard habit to break. The truth is, this only causes me to mentally live in imagined stories of fear, worry, and lies. False scenarios that never actually even happen. I have to take hold. Take hold of my thoughts and cast off the ones that don’t align with the Word of Truth. Then my free hands can take hold of the truth that sets me free to fly. Free from anxiety and thoughts that are simply not true. Free to fully live.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.
What if each time I start to conjure up the worst case scenarios, I said STOP, and instead use my overactive, God-given, story-creating imagination to dwell on the best real-ities? What if those good thoughts became my reality? The power of thoughts is profound, and I tend to overthink. So instead, what if I overthought the benefits, the coming joy, the unfolding gift of flying?
A few years back, my first day working a retail job at Kohl’s, I got a name tag. At the time, Kohl’s slogan was “Expect Great Things.” At some point many days later, I looked down at it. I was discouraged and wondering if I would ever leave that job. When I saw my name tag that day, it felt like a message straight from God. My name tag literally said, “Cassie Expect Great Things.” He was telling me to expect great things in my life! He was asking me to hope that Jeremiah 29:11 was a promise I could claim in my life. He sure fulfilled that promise. When I left that job, I headed to France to teach English in some elementary schools–a dream I had the whole time I worked folding shirts and scanning coupons. But that is still true today, for me and for you. We can choose to expect great things because we have a great God. Put your name in this: ____________, expect great things!
Does imagining good things eliminate ever being disappointed? No. But I can choose to put my hope in God whether I’m making a big job decision or waiting on a dream or making a new friend or taking a new medication or racing my horse. What if it doesn’t happen exactly the way I imagine, but those positive thoughts give me the courage to try, and I see God’s hand working for my good in the decisions I make, in the habits I break, in the risks I take?
Are you good at imagining the worst? I sure am. I invite you to pause with me. What’s the situation where you’ve been recently imagining the worst? Think of 3 possible real good things that could happen instead. STOP. Right now. Do it. What would cause you to fly? Write it down on a sticky note.
Now, I encourage you to prayerfully take an action step. Maybe it’s deciding to trust Him with it. Maybe there is something more you can do that you’ve been afraid to try. Let’s put our hope in God and ask him what He wants us to do. Which steps can we take in His direction today? It can be scary, I know. There is always a risk of falling. But there is also a real risk of flying. You can do this. I can do this. We can do it together. In fact….
And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.