By Shara Bueler-Repka
I focused on the path in front of us and kept my seat centered as my horse, Nocona, and I rode along the narrow trail. The steep mountainside rose above us, and Nocona’s hooves ambled inches away from the plummeting precipice falling away below. As his hoof sunk into a soft part of the trail, the distinctive click of a loosed pebble made my heart skip a beat as the stone bounced off the side, sailing off into space.
Trust. I was grateful for the many hours spent hanging out with my horse. That bond of trust and love developed over time, throughout the years. We ride trails like these only because of that friendship and bond. I know his character and he knows mine.
Building the Relationship
It started out small. When Nocona was a colt, our first encounter together involved putting a halter and lead rope on him—he’d never seen either. This was a must, as I had to get him in the trailer to take him to the ranch. On a hot, humid Texas morning, I watched him as he stared wide-eyed at me. Sweat trickled down my face as the temperature rose to 100 degrees plus, with the humidity a close match. I began softly talking to him. His ears flicked. I relaxed my body, and he slowly dropped his head as he relaxed his. And so our relationship began.
Trust is synonymous with relationship. You can’t truly trust someone you don’t know. I had spent years as a Christian, but not fully trusting the one I claimed allegiance to. When adverse circumstances of life ambushed me, I realized the hard way that my relationship with Jesus was sorely in need of maintenance. I found myself floundering, my foot searching for the solidness of the rock (Matthew 7:24, 25).
In desperation, I looked for God. He was already looking at me. In that ever-so-loving, still, small voice, his Holy Spirit prompted me to start at square two (I was already firmly planted on square one, having accepted Jesus as my Savior). The Spirit gently guided me to read Jesus’ words, written in red. As I studied, an amazing picture formed—a picture of the Son of God, God-in-the-flesh, with an incredibly kind character, a character shining with unconditional love, honesty, fairness, patience, and strength. His solid character does not shift like a shadow (Hebrews 13:8).
As I read, I relaxed. And a real relationship began. I found a personal God who loves us all dearly and wants to take us to heights we have never known—heights that may make our hearts pound, but have beautiful, breathtaking views.
A Love that Longs for Our Trust
His love beckons us to be willing followers, not slaves (Galatians 4:7). For those who have chosen to follow, he calls us his kids. Sometimes it’s scary, this trust thing. But it pleases him, and he knows it greatly benefits us because he has promised he will never abandon us (Hebrews 13:5).
In the beginning Nocona was a feisty one, but I never gave up. He stood as I slipped my hand around his neck and slid the halter over his nose, around his ears, and buckled it. It was a foreign concept to him, and he bolted. I kept with him, letting him test the lead rope, all the while speaking softly to him, reassuring him that all was well and I would not hurt him. Finally, after about an hour and a half, I led him around the pen and loaded him in the trailer next to my other horse. We continued building on our relationship from that solid foundation.
I suppose some schools of thought would have suggested I lasso him and subsequently “show him who’s boss.” But what good would that have done? I would have created a relationship where he only obeyed me because he had to, or worse yet, feared me. It would have been a life of slavery for him and a chore for me.
Many times the Holy Spirit has introduced me to his wisdom and because it was foreign to me, I bolted. But he stuck with me, knowing the incredible plan he had for my life and knowing if we worked together, I could eventually walk in God’s awesome destiny for me (Jeremiah 29:11-13).
It has been an awesome destiny so far. It has included my husband, Bruce, and his horse, Rocky, and, of course, Nocona. We all live on the road full-time, traveling the highways, back roads, and trails, ministering in music wherever and to whomever God leads us. From gathering cattle, traversing steep trails in the mountain backcountry, to singing on horseback and carrying the American flag, the diverse places we go demand a solid trust not only in God, but each other. We’re all a team, created for this amazing adventure of reaching others with our Savior’s love.
“But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all Your works” (Psalm 73:28, New King James Version).
Herein Lies the Challenge
To trust is to believe. To believe means to listen. It’s not enough just to trust. We need to listen to the one we claim commitment to. A relationship is a two-way trail. While I’m reading God’s Word, I hear his voice deep within my spirit instructing, encouraging, guiding me on how to walk this life the way he intended—in strength and peace.
I make mental notes of how he is working and how he has worked in my life. Our relationship deepens as I realize how much he loves and wants the best for me. Instead of the mindset of being saved for the ole fire insurance aspect, I am excited at the new-every-day revelations showing how deep his heart is. The promises in his Word are coming alive as I seek him first (Matthew 6:33).
In this fast-paced, don’t-have-time-to-breathe society, listening has become an antiquity. But it’s a must if we’re to develop that solid trust.
The Acid Test
Life on the road can be a trail of unknowns. The acid test of our trust is what we do when confronted with one of life’s unforeseen surprises. Fear of the unknown (the “what ifs”) can easily keep us from fully enjoying life. But the solid trust that overcomes the fears can only be built through relationship. And that takes time. It takes effort. It takes courage to take the leap of faith, believing God’s Word is truth.
While peacefully riding the back country, minding our own business, the buzz of a rattlesnake angrily warns us we’re in his self-proclaimed territory. Do we stand or run? A mountain lion dashes across the road ahead, chasing a herd of deer traversing the side of a mountain. Same questions. Bruce and I keep our calm. Nocona and Rocky just flick an ear.
Our life is not without scary things jumping out of the bushes. Circumstances will shoot out of nowhere, putting us in a position of decision. Do we run? faint in fear? or stand our ground on that solid relationship we meticulously built in the peaceful times? We might flick an ear at the scary thing, but immediately flick it back toward our guide. Proverbs 1:33 says: “But whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.”
Trust that Continues to Strengthen
As with any relationship, there is constant adjustment and tuning up. Though it is built on a solid foundation, maintenance will always be an ongoing process. Even the apostle Paul was in constant growth and learning. Philippians 3:12 says: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”
Just like Paul, we haven’t arrived yet. We’ve learned our relationship with the Lord requires forward motion. There are always new things to learn about our ourselves and each other, along with old things maybe we’ve forgotten and need to remember again. We know a trust-building relationship is a step-by-step, day-by-day process. But it’s an exciting one. It’s a process full of adventure, offering hope as we discover the depth of God’s character and his love.
Shara Bueler-Repka is a music minister and freelance author based in Sealy, Texas (www.ponyexpressministry.com).