The Skilless Horseman


our family riding horses

Riding with family

I am not a horseman.

I want to make this perfectly clear.

When people ask, I always answer, “No, I’m not a horseman.”

Now, any of you who visit my personal Facebook page know that I spend a fair amount of time around horses.  We own several horses, and I put a good deal of time and effort into caring for them.  We recently bought a little horse for the sole purpose of having him available for our grandkids to ride. I ride with my family at every opportunity.  I spend a couple of Saturdays each month watching my 12-year-old ride in rodeos.

My wife grew up around horses, and rode in rodeos throughout high school and college.  Likewise, her kids (my step-sons) have grown up around horses and rodeos.  For us, horseback riding and rodeos are a family pastime.

Anyone reading my Facebook posts, looking through my pictures, or listening as I talk about family activities, might get the impression that I’m a horseman.  That would be a false impression.  Yes, I like horses, I like riding, and I love spending time doing horse events with my family.

BUT…I am not a horseman.

Unlike my wife, I did not grow up around horses.  I did a little bit of riding on friends’ horses…enough to think I knew a little about them…but I didn’t.  The more time I spend around horses and rodeos the more I realize just how little I know.  These kids who grew up riding have more knowledge and skill at 10 years old than I’ll ever have.

It’s a funny thing, though.  Over the last couple of years, my riding has improved a bit.  I still don’t know much, but I know more than I did.  I don’t bounce around in the saddle as much.  I don’t hang onto the saddle horn.  I know a bit more about how to handle a horse that acts up.  Overall, I’m less tense and more comfortable around horses, both in the saddle and out.

The same experiences that have shown me how little I know about horseback riding have also resulted in my knowing more than I did and in looking just a little bit more like a horseman than I used to.

Like many aspects of life, the more I learn the more I realize how much I don’t know.

And I find myself pondering…isn’t that what living authentically is really all about?

Living authentically, as a Christian, doesn’t mean I refuse to engage in Christian activities until I’ve first perfected the Christian life.  That would be as silly as refusing to ride a horse until I first perfected riding!  One cannot improve without practice.

Just as one cannot become a horseman without riding, one cannot become Christlike without imitating Christ.

A hypocrite is a hypocrite, not because he falls short of his goals or is still learning.  Hypocrisy is born when we start trying to fool people into thinking we’re something we’re not.

If I went around pretending I knew as much about horses as anyone else, and bragging about what a great horseman I was, I would be a hypocrite.  When I thought I knew more about horses than I really did, I was a bit of a hypocrite, simply out of ignorance.  Now that I know enough to freely declare I’m not a horseman, I’m no longer being hypocritical.

In the same way, when we start thinking we have God all figured out, and act as though we have all the nice pat answers to everyone’s life problems, we’re being hypocritical.

To live authentically and avoid hypocrisy, we must always remember that the more we learn the more we realize how little we know.

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

Your thoughts?

[Linked to Messy Marriage, Graceful, Wellspring ]


29 thoughts on “The Skilless Horseman

  1. “Like many aspects of life, the more I learn the more I realize how much I don’t know. And I find myself pondering…isn’t that what living authentically is really all about?”

    Amen, Joe. And the things I thought I once knew are more mysterious and more amazing–like grace. Love this post.

  2. Horses…a fine blend of humor, hysteria, and loyalty. I love them. (I rode English, hunters and jumpers.)

    The question of authenticity in being a Christian is an important one – no points for claiming the position whilst happily ignoring everything Jesus said, after all!

    But you touched on a danger, as well, when you mentioned the silliness of refusing to take part in Christian activities until one had perfected the Christian life.

    I’m beginning to think of Christianity – for us humans – as something of a binary solution set. You are one, or you aren’t.

    Anything approaching perfection is simply impossible, but striving for it – and, inevitably comparing one’s progress with that of others – sets up a hierarchical Christian life which is totally out of place.

    Certainly we should try. Certainly we should want to be Christ-like. But we can only travel a limited distance along that road, and there is nowhere near enough separation between the ‘best’ and the ‘worst’ of the seekers to justify any feelings of superiority, or inferiority.

    We’re all still at the pony rides, watching Jesus run the Derby.

    • “We’re all still at the pony rides, watching Jesus run the Derby.”


      We’re not Christ. None of us will ever be Christ. I certainly have no aspirations of ever becoming Christ.

      But I sure do enjoy His company! And, somehow, as I spend time with Him, marveling at all He says and does, I begin to think and act just a little more like Christ than I did before.

  3. Awesome post. I appreciate how you crafted this. If I compare this to fellowship, the same analogy could be made. Just standing and watching a bunch of folks in fellowship will not provide me the benefits of the group. If I choose to engage and become involved, I begin to reap the benefits of the fellowship (friendship, mentorship, accountability, etc).

    Not sure if that made any sense but thanks.


    • Yes, it definitely does apply to fellowship.

      In fact, in writing this post, I curbed myself from going into a discussion about fellowship within the community of western horsemen. Like any subculture, they’re an interesting group. Initially, I was sort of on the sidelines, because I didn’t know many of them, nor anything about their common interest (horses and rodeos).

      Now, I have a bit more in common with the group. I’m still not a horseman and they all know that. But they seem to appreciate my interest and my coming out to support my kid.

      If I sat on the sidelines and refused to participate, the fellowship would be non-existent. And if I pretended to know more about horses than I really do, it would be socially disastrous!

      Thanks for adding that perspective to the conversation, Hutch!

  4. Well — I have been on a horse three times. And twice I ended up on the ground. I’m not willing to learn any more !

    But I am willing to learn about my walk in Christ and yes, the deeper I go, the more I find. It’s like a sunken treasure!

  5. This is so encouraging to me, Joe! Recently I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed by the responsibilities of my job–being stretched in new ways lately that, in the moment, feel too hard for me. This has led to me questioning my abilities. But this makes me think that perhaps I’m really growing and discovering how little I really know–which is a good thing, right? Sounds a little counter-intuitive, but I do think it’s true! Thanks for this thought-provoking perspective, my friend.

    • Oh, I absolutely agree, Beth!

      When we start feeling a bit over our heads in a given area, it is often a sign that we have recently gained significant knowledge in that area.

      Few things in life are as simple as they appear from the outside. Recognizing increasing levels of complexity is often indicative of improved understanding.

      Thanks for bringing that perspective into the discussion.

      Praying for you, this morning, that God will continue to give you increasing insight and wisdom.

  6. I used to think I knew a lot about Counseling. Then I got a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and realized I didn’t know quite as much as I thought I did. After that I got a Master’s in Counseling. By the end of that degree i was convinced that I knew almost NOTHING about Counseling!!! I told one of my professors that I felt like I should wear a sign that said, “Don’t ask me! I might mess you up!” 🙂 I can laugh about it now but at the time it was terrifying. His response was something like, “Well, they shouldn’t ASK you. They should TELL you and YOU should LISTEN.” (!!!!) He also said the only students that worried him were the ones who graduated and thought they knew a LOT. Our professors (at UCA) drilled into us that each client is an expert on themselves and you are NOT. You are there to learn about them.

    These days I supervise students finishing their Masters in Counseling and I note that I too find the ones who are overly confident incredibly irritating. I find the same thing is true with Christians. The ones who irritated Jesus are the ones who irritate me. These are the those who have it all figured out and can’t understand how you can know the Bible, pray, etc. and still struggle. The older I get the less of an opinion I have about anything. I am haunted by the truth that I will never have all the facts about any given situation or national crisis. However, what I DO know (that Jesus loves me, God is good, trustworthy , faithful, etc.) I believe with more conviction than EVER.

    Thank you for your thoughts. They were obviously provoking. 🙂

    • You know, when I read the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, I sometimes feel just a twinge of envy. I don’t envy His ability to perform miracles, walk on water, heal the sick, make wine from water…those would be pretty cool, but not something for which I feel a constant need.

      But when I read of Jesus’ interactions with people…His ability to instantly understand each situation…to know what’s going on in people’s hearts…and to know exactly the best way to address each situation…THAT is something I truly need on a daily basis! That is something I would dearly like to able to do and am constantly aware of my complete inadequacy.

      Then I remember…I don’t have to be able to do that…it’s enough that I can trust Him to be able!

      Thanks for sharing, Dorcas! I always enjoy reading your perspective.

      I love you, my sweet sister!

  7. While the road is narrow for all of us, each of our various travels on the road is, I believe, unique. That, I think, is evidence of a long-suffering and creative Creator. While each of our treks have similarities each of our treks along the straight and narrow are a bit different. I know I stumble too close to the edge way too often but I’m trying to keep my bearings …

  8. Excellent article, Joe. As Christians, we are called to live authentically and without hypocrisy. As we go through life we learn as we go. I look back to how I was as a young man and wonder at my arrogance. I knew nothing! At least now I know I know nothing!

    • That’s exactly how I feel, Forrest!

      Thinking about my arrogant ignorance as a young man, makes me want to go back and apologize to all my old friends. I meant well…I really did…but I knew so little while thinking I knew so much. I had no idea of life’s complexities.

      Remembering helps me have grace for other young hypocrites…but my tolerance for the hypocrisy is increasingly low…especially in those old enough to know better…

      Thanks for sharing!

  9. Dear Joe
    Just the other day a friend and I was talking about this subject of knowing about God. We both agreed that we really know a lot about God, the day we realize we know actually nothing about Him. And that is not what it is about, in any case! Our Lord taught us that a Eternal Life is to know Him. The only way, I think this happens, is when we come to Him and abide in Him, allowing Him to live His life in and through us to our Pappa’s glory through His grace. It can be scary when you think of Jesus’ words to those who trusted all the things they have done in His name to make them “right” with God, that He doesn’t know Him.
    Blessings XX

    • “…come to Him and abide in Him, allowing Him to live His life in and through us to our Pappa’s glory through His grace.”


      And it is thru that abiding fellowship with Him, that we come to better know His heart.

      Thank you for including this perspective, Mia!

  10. ‘To live authentically and avoid hypocrisy, we must always remember that the more we learn the more we realize how little we know.’

    And in that one line, you have said it all. Simply profound. And a very good start to this week!

  11. I love horses — watching them. But with my Christian experience, I want participation — striving to be like Christ. Enjoyed this, Joe. Your words about the more we learn of God, the less we really know are so true. It is what living authentically is all about.

    • “…with my Christian experience, I want participation — striving to be like Christ.”


      Me too, Pamela!

      …and thanks for your participation in this discussion! 🙂

  12. Yeah, you can say that again. The more we learn the more we realize how little we know. Horses and walking with the Lord and life in general sure can teach us that. There is comfort in beginner’s mind. We can learn things that way. I love your definition of hypocrisy too.

    Sounds like you’re have a good time with your family and those horses too!

    • Yes, I’m having loads of fun with them. In some ways, I think I almost enjoy them more because of being a novice. I’m like a kid waking up Christmas morning to discover I’ve been given my very own pony!

      And, yes, the beginner’s mind makes it so much more fun than if I thought I had to pass myself off as an expert…both with the horses and in life in general.

      Thank you, for stopping by!

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