Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tips for Wives, Remember, we already read Tips for Husbands.

Last month we wrote the article Wake-up Call for Husbands, and were surprised to see the large number of comments and emails we received. Many were from wives expressing gratitude for the ideas presented, some saying they were looking forward to the article for wives since they really do want to be good wives and are eager to find out things they may not be aware of to show greater love to their husbands.

Some were thank-you’s from men who expressed their love for their wives and found some helpful ideas in the article to enhance their marriage relationship. Some of the comments were from men defending their positions and stating they “can’t wait to read the wake-up call for wives article because wives certainly have faults, too.”

We appreciated the helpful ideas that came in from men who are struggling from mistreatment from their wives. Just to show the intensity some felt, one man wrote, “Thousands of men suffer in silence at the abuse and neglect leveled at them by their wives. Yet what seems to get published all the time is what the men need to do, how bad the men are.”

It’s now time for the wives wake-up call. Many of our readers’ remarks will be included in this article.

Writing an article like this is risky and takes a bit of courage, since some may be offended. We discovered last time that some can be very unkind in communicating their feelings to us. Our intent is to help, not offend. Knowing that most wives are doing a superb job, we hope you will read this with minds open to learn what might improve your own marriage. We can’t possibly say everything that could be, or even needs to be, said on the subject. But we’ll do the best we can for now. We’re the first to admit we don’t have all the answers, but still we try to be of help. We are not pointing fingers at anyone in particular, simply hoping to give helpful suggestions. If it applies to you, we hope you will be willing to make positive changes to enhance your marriage.

A reader by the name of Bruce summed up our intent perfectly in this comment: “Marriage, like almost everything of importance takes maintenance. It is far easier to maintain and enrich your present relationship (if you haven't messed it up already) than to establish a new one. Besides, if you don't change, the new relationship will not last either. The fun things that brought you together can keep you together.”

Joseph F. Smith’s counsel to wives, after giving counsel to husbands, is as true today as it was then. “The wife, also should treat the husband with the greatest respect and courtesy. Her words to him should not be keen and cutting and sarcastic. She should not pass slurs or insinuations at him. She should not nag him. She should not try to arouse his anger or make things unpleasant about the home. The wife should be a joy to her husband, and she should live and conduct herself at home so the home will be the most joyous, the most blessed place on earth to her husband. This should be the condition of the husband, wife, the father and the mother, within the sacred precinct of that holy place, the home.” (Gospel Doctrine, 283–84)

Tips for Wives

• Give him time to unwind.

Clinical studies have shown that when men are overly stressed after a hard day at work, what they need is a quiet time to just sit and basically think of nothing. Just rest from all cares. Women, on the other hand, often unwind by talking about their day, pouring it all out. If couples understand this difference they’ll know a little better how to give their spouses what they need.

Jill, from Oregon, said she could tell when her husband was really stressed after work. As was the custom, she would greet him with a kiss, and then suggest he sit quietly, undisturbed in his study for 15 minutes or so, and would bring him his favorite apple juice drink, then leave him alone without asking any questions. After a few minutes he would come out refreshed, play with the kids and help out with household chores. Did she do this every day? No, but enough times, when he was particularly stressed or agitated, to let him know she understood his needs. She said that many times he returned the favor to her.

When wives pay attention to their husbands needs, he will be more inclined to pay attention to hers. Find out what your husband needs and wants by simply asking him.

• If something continually bothers you, let him know

Don’t let it build up and then explode, or end it with divorce papers. If something is wrong, let him know. This is most effective when done out of the heat of the moment. Let’s say he said something, maybe sarcastic, in public that he thought was funny, but was very hurtful to you. When you get home and are alone, in a calm manner tell him how you felt. You might say, “I felt sad tonight when you told that joke about me. I felt ridiculed and hurt. I’m asking you to please never do that again.” His intent was probably to just be funny but had no thought about how it may hurt her. Now he knows and will likely not do it again. Then drop it. If it happens again, repeat the process. Always being kind and respectful, not hateful in your response.

This works well with whatever he may be doing that has been hurtful to you. When you do this don’t bring up how many times it’s happened, just start where you are and let him know your feelings. It’s our belief that husbands don’t want to hurt their wives, it’s just that they sometimes are not aware. So let him know, in a kind, but firm way.

• Listen to him

Many women complain that their husbands just don’t talk much. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is that, generally speaking, men aren’t as inclined to talk as women are. They’re just made that way. However, they would talk more if their wives would really listen. To see what we mean read this comment from another letter we received and see if you can discover why he doesn’t talk much.

“[My wife’s] complaint is that I never talk to her…. I converse but she almost always tears me down or has a better way to do something… and makes me feel like a total moron… she has a master’s degree and I only have an associates… but I make over 90K so she can stay at home… I help with the dishes, house cleaning, toilets, you name it And would do the laundry but she won’t let me (I DO know how!).”

Who wants to share ideas with someone who tears those ideas apart or pooh poohs them? No one! (That goes both ways, men) Too many times women immediately begin criticizing when a man shares his thoughts. Please just listen and validate his feelings.

You don’t have to agree, but you do need to listen as he shares his ideas.

That’s called courtesy and respect. At a later time you can say you’ve been thinking about what he said and offer your thoughts on the subject in a respectful way.

• Let your husband know how much you love and appreciate him.

In response to our Wake-up Call for Husbands article we received this letter. It sounds extreme and uncommon, but is it? Here is a portion of this very discouraged husband’s letter. Look at it, wives, and see if you find yourself anywhere in it.

“But what about us men whose wives treat them like slaves? I've been married 30+ years and have never had a breakfast or lunch made. She won't even wake up to see me off in the morning, and when I come home in the evening I'm expected to do my share of the housework, and somehow my share is the biggest share. Oh, my wife is a full-time homemaker.

“I am allowed two pair of pants; anything else is a waste according to my wife who can fill two closets. I don't even own a pair of jeans to do yard work.

“My wife has only said "thank you" twice in our marriage for me holding the door open for her.

“According to the Gospel, I must continue to treat my wife with tenderness and love; there is no way for a priesthood holder to retaliate when a wife treats him like this. Can't abuse her; can't even talk back. According to current church leadership, I must continue being meek and mild. According to my bishop and stake president I must not criticize her or "hurt her feelings." In other words, she is my abuser and I must take it or I am not a worthy priesthood holder.

“My wife is not the only one. I see many women like her in the Church. . . . No wonder the young men are refusing to marry! This is indelicate of me, but if church leadership would have the courage to preach at the women about how to act in marriage like they do the men, there would be women worth marrying.”

That was a lot of hurt to unload. No man should be treated that way. He needs to kindly and respectfully set some boundaries. We hope that pouring it all out like that has helped him feel better, and even more importantly we hope that any woman in that situation will see how wrong her behavior is. We must remember “what is good for the goose is good for the gander.” Both husband and wife deserve kindness and respect.

Now on a much more positive note, a Relief Society president from California, wrote the following: “I think most of what you said in the husband article applies to wives. Many times we don't tell our husbands how much we appreciate them. Often they feel they can't do enough to please us and that we are never satisfied. I think it is critical to keep your relationship alive and growing. It is important to keep your romance and courtship going. You need to flirt with your husband, make him feel desirable and let him know how much you appreciate him. I love surprising my husband with something romantic. One day when the kids weren't home I made a sign on our bedroom door, "Ritz Hotel". I had decorated our bedroom with candles, chocolate, cold sparkling cider, a massage table, etc. We had our own little hotel getaway right at home. He was very surprised and loved it. We still remember and refer to that night together. I think it is important to let your husband feel that you are crazy about him, as much or more than when you married him. I think too many times lack of attention at home turns their heads to attention outside the home.”

Men generally work hard to provide for their families. They deserve some special attention and sincere expressions of appreciation from their wife, just as wives do from their husbands. It’s amazing how far a genuine “thank you” and a little romance from a spouse will go.

• Be sexually willing and responsive

Speaking of romance, one male reader made a valuable contribution regarding physical intimacy. He reminded wives with the “Good Girl Syndrome” that they “must make an effort to embrace [sexual intimacy] and not consider it sinful. Your husband wants you to enjoy this special part of your marriage as much as he does, so help him know what you need to enjoy it.”

He went on to say, “In priesthood we hear it over and over again to ‘cherish and respect your wives as they are daughters of God’ which is true and I see countless examples. I have read most of the Relief Society broadcasts and it seems the men are pounded on this and pornography (as these are two critical issues), but it seems that the sisters are not told that their husbands are son's of God and need to be respected, including the area of intimacy.”

Another letter was very revealing. He wrote: “I once saw a man wearing a T-shirt that said, ‘I will WORK for SEX’. I wanted one of those to wear around the house. though it would have done me no good. “Just as women need to have hugs and kisses and words of endearment whispered in their ear, men need to have sex. If I had been stingy with my hugs and kisses for my wife, our marriage would not have made it. I wonder sometimes how I have endured her being stingy with sex and many times acting as if it were like a chore.

“Sex is a basic need. Sometimes I think somehow our chastity teaching needs to include teaching young women that sexual purity is needed before marriage, but after marriage emphasize that it is okay to turn it off and enjoy sex with their husbands. Sex should be the a spice to our marriages and the glue that helps hold couples together.”

A woman identified only as LDS woman, gave some interesting advice. She said, “I would encourage the sisters to give themselves to their husband sexually as often as they are able. Men are so relaxed and rejuvenated by this that I believe it should be scheduled in! In our marriage we have a rule, I'm available every other day...which usually translates to Tuesdays and Thursdays and weekends. It has served us well, this planning, because I know that the other days are "mine" and it's not expected. Women have told me that it takes away spontaneity, but I say, with our busy lives, it's better than it being weeks since we last made love!”

President Spencer W. Kimball said, “There are many aspects to love in marriage, and sex is an important one. Just as married partners are not for others they are for each other.” (Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 73)

• Put the needs of your home and family first

Some of the men who wrote us expressed frustration at the way their wives were neglecting their responsibilities at home. Some reported that their wives spent hours on the computer social networking with friends, ignoring the house completely.

Others complained that it appeared that nothing had been done at all to clean their home or fix meals, even though they were not employed outside the home.

Some were aware that their wives were off shopping or scrapbooking, and having fun with girl friends, rather than keeping up the home. It’s important to note that they didn’t resent their wives having a good time, but when it became so constant and the neglect so obvious, they were sad.

One disheartened husband wrote, “Like many good husbands, I work long hours at my job, hold responsibilities in the church, and also do my share of cooking meals, washing dishes, taking out trash, bathing young kids, and the rest of the household chores. My wife works a part time job that allows her to be home with the children most of the time.

“Here is what I have observed with my wife and many sisters in the church under 40. They don't feel that running a house and taking care of children is rewarding or their primary responsibility. They have many activities taking them away from the children and out of the home. They have their TV shows that they watch religiously, no matter what impact that has on children's schedules, family scripture reading, and family prayer time. Many seem proud that they can't cook, can't iron, and rarely do any housecleaning. My wife and I have talked through these issues, and we are trying better to meet each others needs. . . .

“Several recent studies show that American men work about 10 hours more per week than their dads did, many have hour long commutes, and that American men spend more hours caring for children and doing housework than other men, or their fathers did.

“The reality is that American LDS men are working longer, spending more time with children and housework than ever before, while American LDS women are doing less. They have fewer children than before, they spend less time caring for the children and home. My wife points out that she spends more time driving the kids to activities. After a while, we both chose to limit the children's participation in sports and activities to make more time for the family.”

This letter gives you a flavor of the frustration some husbands are feeling. Another man wrote us telling of the neglect he received from his wife. Without going into all the details he shared, we’ll quote his final statement: “I see so many of the young women of the Church growing up believing that some prince charming will see to all their needs and they won't be expected to do anything that requires effort or that may make them feel the slightest bit ‘uncomfortable.’ Yes, they are daughters of a king and they are princesses, destined to become queens. And, we were all sent here to work and to sacrifice and to take up our crosses and follow our Savior. That requires at least occasional discomfort, even for the royal princesses.”

We hope these letters from men will nudge women who fall into this category to wake up and more clearly see their vitally important role as a wife and mother. Please know that we understand that most of you wives reading this are already diligently fulfilling this responsibility.

Sister Julie B. Beck, Relief Society General President, in General Conference Oct. 2008, clarified the role of women of the Church when she said, “Latter-day Saint women must be strong and immovable in family. They can and should do families better than anyone else. We, as disciples of Christ, can and should be the very best in the world at upholding, nourishing, and protecting families. We do this as we:

1. Understand and defend the divine roles of women.

2. Embrace the blessings of the priesthood.

3. Form eternal families.

4. Maintain strong marriages.

5. Bear and rear children.

6. Express love for and nurture family members.

7. Accept responsibility to prepare a righteous rising generation.

8. Know, live, and defend the doctrine of the family.

• Believe him when he says he loves you, and be forgiving

An anonymous reader made this comment: “Last week my wife of 22 years decided to divorce. Four kids, and it is the worst nightmare of my life. I have provided well and have been told for years that I have never loved her. I have tried to show and express love only to have her believe its not genuine. She can recite vividly the day 20 years ago that I did something that proved I could not love her, and 12 years ago when...[and on it goes]. How about an article encouraging wives to forgive and forget those offenses, real or imagined, that happen on occasion in marriage. Another temple marriage bites the dust. It's awful!”

Every spouse will at some point make mistakes, some more serious than others. We have observed that when repentance and forgiveness are genuine marriages can flourish. Years ago a local church leader, in a private conversation, said, “My wife doesn’t get hysterical, she gets historical.” Leave past mistakes alone and move on.

President Gordon B. Hinckley counseled: “If there is forbearance, if there is forgiveness, if there is an anxious looking after the happiness of one’s companion then love will flourish and blossom. The prescription is simple and wonderfully effective. It’s love. It’s plain simple every day love and respect.”

• Accept his compliments and say thank you.

For some reason many wives have difficulty accepting their husbands compliments. Maybe they don’t feel good about themselves, and if that’s the case, please don’t put that onto your husband. Thank him when he praises or complements you. Believe him. Don’t give him reasons why you’re not what he says you are. A husband at one of our marriage retreats, in the breakout session where men and women are separated, said, “I told my wive she had cute ankles, and she does. But she came back with, “just look a little higher and you’ll see how fat I am.” He was crushed by her remark. He said, “Please tell wives to accept our compliments.”

So here it comes: Wives, accept your husband’s compliments! Why in the world would anyone point out her faults and bring them to her spouse’s attention. That’s just crazy.

• He needs compliments, too.

In a MensHealth.com survey 38% of men said they are rarely or never complimented by their partners, and less than 25% are regularly complimented. When your husband does something for you or the family make sure he knows you appreciate it by saying thank you. Be specific in your compliments and expressions of gratitude, such as, “Thanks so much for working so hard to support our family.” or “Thank you for being so patient with Johnny tonight.” You may think, “These are his responsibilities, why do I have to thank him for it?” You do it because it’s kind and respectful, and it shows him you are noticing the good things he does. It will inspire him to want to be an even better husband and father.

One gentleman wrote, “For more than twenty years I have enjoyed opening doors for my wife, but I could count on one hand the times she’s thanked me for it.

” It just feels good to be acknowledged for a good deed.

Another man wrote that it had been many years since his wife had complimented his looks. He said he tries to be clean and nicely dressed, but “she never seems to notice. I want to be attractive to her.” Men need to know that you still think he’s handsome. Even though bodies change through the years, there’s still something about him you can compliment, like his arm muscles, his smile, his eyes, how good he looks in his suit. Anything you notice about his physical appearance that you like, let him know. And be sincere.

• Be a lady.

Is there a difference between a woman and lady? When a female client was recently asked this question she said, “Woman is a gender, lady is an attitude.” An excellent definition of the difference. One man said, “My wife is my yardstick for womanhood. She acts like a lady, she dresses like a lady, she talks like a lady, and expects to be treated like a lady. And she’s fun to be around.”

Men love being with a lady. They’re surrounded by men all day, or some women who are trying to be like men, so give him the gift of having a wife who is a true lady. He’ll love it. And yes, ladies can do all kinds of tough tasks and still be a lady. Does that mean she has to wear a skirt all the time. Of course not. That’s not even practical. It means she acts in gentleness, but can work like a trooper. She is strong, and yet is respectful and gentle in her strength. She doesn’t curse or act vulgar. She speaks in loving ways. She embraces her femininity. That’s being a lady. Remember, it’s an attitude.

President Faust said, “Femininity is part of your inner beauty.” (Ensign, May 2000, 96) So let it show by how you act.

• Be 100% loyal and faithful to your husband.

That’s what you want from him, so be sure to give the same to him. If ideas pop into your head that someone else is more attractive than your husband, or more successful, or more patient, and that you wish you could be with someone like that, recognize that that is Satan speaking to your mind. He rejoices when you let those thoughts stay because he knows it will cause you to be unhappy in your marriage and want to seek someone else.

Don’t flirt with other men. Never. It’s not cute, it’s cheap and disrespectful to your husband. You wouldn’t want him to do it, so don’t you do it. Keep your romantic feelings and thoughts for your husband only. Never let them stray.

Speak kindly of your husband to others. To share his faults, and they all have some (as do wives) , with friends or family members is a type of betrayal. It causes you to concentrate on his short comings. Instead, tell about his good points, and focus there. When you do that you’ll become more and more aware of what a great guy he is.

• What if your husband abuses you?

No woman should ever have to endure a physically abusive husband. If that’s your situation, talk to your bishop or a professional counselor. Bishops who are reading this, please listen to a sister who comes to you with this problem. Believe her! Even if her husband appears to be a righteous priesthood holder. If it’s serious abuse, wives, call the police when it happens. Get yourself into a safe place. You must take care of yourself and your children.

A woman who had been in an abusive relationship, which included being whipped by her husband with a curling iron, and is now separated from her him, wrote this: “So what's my advice to [women considering marriage]? Get an education. Get a skill. Be prepared in life to support yourself. Learn about finances. Live on your own before you ever get married. Know that you can take care of yourself. Date someone for a long time. Know their family. Here's a question to ask him: ‘Did your Dad ever hit your mom?’ (You know, your dad who has been a bishop, in a stake presidency and is a temple worker) Did your Dad ever hit you or your brothers and sisters? How were problems resolved in your home? How are finances run in your family? How are decisions made? Observe for a long time the interactions of future in-laws. Bring your mom and dad along to get to know these future in-laws and listen to their observations. Think, pray, read up on marriage and relationships. Counseling before marriage might be helpful. Learning about boundaries might be really helpful.”

The following heartfelt letter came from a woman whose husband abused her and their young son to the point of the boy’s life being in jeopardy. For their safely she had to leave. She went through a long period of healing her broken heart while providing as happy a home as she could for her son. Her message gives hope to everyone in such a situation.

She wrote: “Those long years on my own slowly helped to heal my broken heart. I have [decided] that IF I could ever meet, trust, and fall in love with a wonderful, goodly man, I would demonstrate each day just how happy I was to be married to him.

“Four years ago, a dear friend from my ward introduced me to her brother. He is a real man and a real gentle-man. He, too, had been on his own for 11 years before we met, raising his three sons. He is a truly great guy.

“We dated for one year, sharing our hearts and minds, before kneeling across the altar in the Lord's Holy Temple in 2008 to be sealed for time and all eternity. Our life together is truly blissful.

“He calls me his queen and treats me as such. Every morning he awakes and he must think, ‘What can I do to make my wife’s day better and brighter and make her glad she is married to me?’ because he does thoughtful little things he knows would make me happy. He always has a smile for me and a warm hug, and takes the time to talk with me at the end of his busy day.

“I, in turn, awake thinking, ‘What can I do to make my husband’s day better and brighter, and make him glad he is married to me?’ I ENJOY creating a happy home for him, caring for him, cooking his favorite foods, dressing nicely for him, and waiting for his arrival at the end of his long work day with a smile and hug and kind word!

“My dear husband and I are older than most young couples starting out and hopefully a little wiser, too. We try to put the Lord first in our lives. We are also busy thinking about each other and what our spouse would appreciate -- rather than ourselves. We try never to take each other for granted.

“We enjoy reaching out and serving others in our Church and community life, and look forward to serving a mission together.

My husband is truly my earthly and heavenly companion.

We look for the best in each other and don't get bogged down in trivial little annoyances. We are so blessed to have been brought together by the Lord. This knowledge makes life a joy! We look to each day and each night together and are grateful to know that we are joined together forever through sacred priesthood ordinance.

“I cannot begin to share the deep joy and peace in my heart, and always begin and end each day kneeling in reverent, sweet prayer of thanksgiving to my Heavenly Father for sending this honorable, devout, sincere, brilliant, spiritual, handsome, and witty man into my life! I intend to keep on showing him in thought, word, and deed just how much he means to me.”

This letter touched us deeply. It summarizes and culminates our thoughts about how marriage can be when both the wife and the husband wake up to what needs to be done to create a happy marriage.

Final comment

This article is not an indictment against wives. To the contrary, we believe that most wives work very hard to bring happiness to their husbands and families, and that they love them dearly. As mentioned at the beginning, this article is meant to help those who want to improve their marriage. Many more things could be said, but this is a start. We hope it helps. (To read the article Wake-up Call for Husbands click here)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Our Father's Ways!

This article was co-authored by Katie Purdie.
(Click here to receive a free sample of my book, The Three Pillars of Zion. Use the code Meridian to receive 20% discount.)

Recently, my daughter, Katie, was in charge of a teen retreat for the Utah Hemophilia Foundation. As part of their experience, the young people were introduced to a technique of taming a wild horse called gentling. During the process, she learned something about the way God might gentle us into a relationship of trust to tame our “natural man” and thus reach our potential.

The day began by observing a skilled master trainer work with a wild, three-year-old filly. The young horse had never been ridden and was on high alert, skittish to any movement or noise. The master explained that fear is the obstacle to be overcome. Why? Because wild horses instinctively interpret their environment through the filter of fear. For instance, a sudden noise or a slight touch could be a snake, or the appearance of a man could represent a predator, like a mountain lion. Understanding the horse’s innate fears of being isolated in a corral away from its herd and how it processes foreign sounds, touches and sensations help the master patiently reduce the animal’s apprehension and eventually gain its confidence.
Gentling is light-years removed from the method of breaking a horse shown in westerns. Whereas19th century techniques were violent, abusive and forced, causing the horse to fear its master, gentling is loving, patient, and understanding, allowing the animal to use its agency to learn to obey and trust. Ultimately, the horse chooses to submit to the gentle persuasions of its master. The horse master described gentling as “TLC”—trust, learning and communication. The master and the horse must first learn to trust each other before the horse can learn the most basic of commands. In the process, the horse and master discover how to communicate with each other.

Becoming Acquainted

The training had already begun about three weeks before Katie and her group arrived that day to observe the final steps. During the ensuing weeks, the master had started with the end-goal in mind: to be able to saddle and ride the horse; to become one with the horse. Understanding that the end-goal could not be achieved unless the filly felt comfortable with him, the master had begun the painstaking process of desensitizing the animal to its fears in order to gain its trust.
The training process began by placing the horse in a circular corral so it could not cower in a corner and feel trapped. Then introductions ensued; the master and the horse had to get to know each other. This was not so easy. Remember, the horse instinctively sees the master as dangerous. Therefore, to neutralize the animal’s fear, the master had employed a non-threatening strategy to help the filly become used to him.

Standing a distance away, the master first climbed into the corral and stood at the opposite end. The horse was upset at first, but when she settled down and accepted him into her space, the master began a slow approach toward her as he spoke in a quiet, reassuring voice. If the horse bolted, the master would stop and retreat a pace, allowing her to accept his presence and nearness; then the master would try taking a few steps toward her again. With each approach, the master respected the horse’s agency and yielded to her desire to allow him to draw near. Now, after three weeks of becoming acquainted, Katie’s teens would watch the master perfect his work.

Accepting the Master’s Touch

By this time, the master could place his hands upon the filly, softly at first, then he applied more pressure as she would allow. The act of touching and applying more and more pressure served to establish a trusting connection between the two. Next, the master employed a long rod that acted as an extension of his arm. To the end of the rod, he tied a sack. Then, as if to simulate a snake, he drew it close to the horse’s hind quarters, rattling the sack around near the ground and sometimes brushing against the legs. Later, when he had desensitized the horse from this supposed danger, he rattled the sack near or touched it on other parts of the horse’s body.
The master made no sudden moves, but spoke comfortingly as he gently brought the sack close. Beyond desensitizing the animal from its instinct to interpret the sounds and motions of the sack as that of a snake, the tactic had another purpose: to help the horse learn to trust the master when he placed foreign objects in the horse’s proximity.
At first, the filly hated the sack. For an hour, she shied, bolted and ran the circumference of the corral before she settled down. Finally, she seemed to realize that the master could be trusted and that the sack was not dangerous. Then the master would introduce a new object: a rope or a saddle, for instance. Each time the master presented her with something foreign, the filly had to start all over again with learning to trust the master with this new object.
And the timeframe was essentially the same each time. The time it took for the filly to get used to the rod and the sack approximated the time it took for her to accept the rope and the saddle. Only the gentle patience of the master helped her through this essential process. Unless she could trust the master when unknown objects or sounds burst upon her environment, she could not prove trustworthy or safe to ride. Eventually, she allowed the master to introduce a number of objects and sounds to her without fear.

Increasing the Level of Trust through Advanced Learning

Next, the master discarded the rod and sack and introduced a rope, an object that the horse would have to learn tolerate every day of its life. Of course, the rope looked very much like a snake, so the animal’s immediate reaction was fear, especially when the master swung the rope around his head. Again, the master made no threatening or sudden movements, but he employed reassuring communication as he attempted to gain the horse’s trust with this foreign object.

At length, when the horse began to settle down, the master let the horse feel the rope on various parts of its body. If the filly reared or bolted at the touch, the master would withdraw until the horse calmed down, then he would approach her again and let her feel the rope until she accepted it. Each time, the horse chose how much it would allow.
Interestingly, the master never let up. If the horse acquired one skill, the master would immediately build upon that skill by introducing a harder skill. The process was exhausting for both the master and the horse, but if the master backed off and didn’t push forward, the horse would regress, become lazy, forget the skill and never arrive at the completion of its training. By design, then, the master could never give the horse a break.
He had to continue to apply the pressure of training for the horse’s sake, introducing progressively tougher concepts, one right after another.
All the while, however, the master allowed the horse its agency and timing; how much and when it would learn were completely a matter of choice. Again, with each acquired skill, the horse seemed to gain more trust in and understanding of the master and become more and more submissive as it progressively let go of fear and resistance.

On the Right Side and the Left Side

Another fascinating observation made by Katie’s teens was that the master taught the horse its skills both on the right side and then on the left side. If the horse only learned to tolerate the sack or the rope on its left side, for instance, she could never be ridden and would forget what it had learned. The skill was not completely perfected until the horse could perform equally well on either side and under any condition. The master’s purpose was to train the horse thoroughly.

Ready for the Bridle

As mentioned, one of the most difficult challenges was for the horse to accept the feel of the rope, especially on its head. For an hour, the master approached and retreated, attempting to touch the rope to the horse’s head. He always yielded to the horse’s choice. When the animal finally allowed the rope to touch the face, the master began the painstaking process of looping the rope over the horse’s head so that she could be lead. At first, the horse resisted the rope around its neck, so the master removed it to let the horse relax and think about its choice. Then he would try again and again.
When the horse finally allowed the rope to be looped over its head, the master moved the rope to the girth and attempted to loop the rope around the horse’s middle. Then he alternatively synched and loosened the rope at different spots to simulate a saddle. As always, the horse decided if and when it would choose to tolerate the new sensation.
Every time that she was presented with a new object or felt a new sensation on different parts of her body, she would buck and bolt then eventually settle down. Finally, when she was convinced she was safe, she would allow it. At the end of the day, the master was able to bridle and saddle her without resistance.

God’s Gentling Work

Have we ever wondered why we never seem to get a break in this life? Often trials come sequentially or simultaneously with no time to catch our breath. Have we ever considered that a Master Trainer is working with us to an end that we cannot presently envision?
How might this training ensue? Might he start by corralling us into a foreign area, isolating us from a comfortable environment and relationships? Now we sense him climb in with us, inviting us to sense his presence and get used to him. Then he takes a step toward us. Do we bolt and grow apprehensive?
Imagine how he patiently waits for us to accept him and the objects and lessons that he places before us. Imagine how he reaches out to us from a distance and finally places his hands upon us, softly at first, then applying more pressure until we fully accept his touch. With any of his approaches, if we react with fear or mistrust, he withdraws a pace to let us regroup, but he never exits the corral. He is always there, advancing and stepping back as needed, speaking reassuring words, always encouraging us to accept him and his lessons, applying increasing pressure, introducing new ideas, helping us to perfect new skills, first on one side and then on the other. Always with the end goal in mind!
All of this training is our choice, of course. How fast we accept him and his teaching is totally up to us. When we finally trust that both God and his ways are neither dangerous nor limiting, we allow him to lay the rope and saddle upon us and lead us to a new life in which we become one with him. This new life and skill set are safe, secure, fulfilling, saturated with freedom and enlightenment.
We discover that we want him in our space. We need him touching us and speaking comforting, encouraging words. We desire his training, which is borne out of love after all. We find that we are so much more with him than without him. Our life will never be the same when we finally recognize and accept the gentling hands of God.

I was so touched by this. I have come to know Him better.