King of the Ditch
I was extremely blessed as a child and had a pony. He was a very handsome gentleman named King and he loved to jump. If ever we were somewhere where a jump was possible, he would bolt with me and make for it at great speed. If ever we were faced with two jumps – one higher, one lower – he would go for the highest one and I learned to trust him even when my heart was in my throat as we careened across some field towards a ridiculously high looking gate/bench/hedge/breakwater or other towering obstacle. I won’t pretend I wasn’t petrified sometimes, but I did learn to trust his judgment rather than my own and just hang on while he hurled himself over some monolith with a joyful leap. Clearly he had something of the adrenaline junkie about him. All I could do was hold tight and go along for the ride (see what I did there?).
One of the local farms held a cross country jumping competition each year. For the uninitiated this involves galloping through muddy fields towards rustic jumps like a massive tree trunk over a pond, ditches, hedging and the like. This was my first event and I was a little nervous so we walked the course to familiarize ourselves with the jumps. Most people would ride their horses to walk the course, but since mine was a little impetuous we decided just to do it on foot. The jumps were pretty intimidating. I am far from tall and was only 11 or 12, so from my perspective there was, shall we say, some awe involved.
I had faith though. And once I was up on King all fear was left behind with the mud thrown up from his excitedly capering hooves. We sailed over logs, leapt hay bales, plunged down dry ditches. Oh man! That is one of my happiest and most vivid memories. The wind in my face, the smell of the earth and the horse and the view through his dear, exuberant ears. We plunged toward the final hurdle, a log and ditch affair and I felt King gather himself for takeoff. The feeling of soaring over said log and landing, with a cold, filthy splat, in the ditch as I realized I had taken the jump beautifully – the horse however, had not.
Luckily that particular jump, being the last, was placed in the area closest to the crowd where everyone had a perfect view of me flailing around in the water and washing the dirt from my face with hot tears. Oh. The shame.
I was reminded of this story this morning when Elizabeth was talking about Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday and our propensity to gloss over the horror of Jesus’ experience as he was sent to his death on the cross. But that’s the whole point of all of this – God never expects us to do anything, to go anywhere, to experience anything he has not already experienced through Jesus. And our trust in him is never, ever misplaced. He carries us over all obstacles and never lets fall into the ditch alone.