I was just watching again an old movie called “The Horse Whisperer,” released in 1998. In the story, both a horse and a young teenage girl (14 in the movie) have been traumatized by an accident in which her friend was killed. The girl lost half her leg while the horse was injured and became unmanageable. The girl is named Grace; the horse is named Pilgrim. No, I do not think they were trying for an allegory of any type with the names because the plot does not fit that.
The mother is desperate to save the horse and see her daughter psychologically healed. The movie is pure Hollywood, complete with an adulterous love affair. In order to save the horse, the mother desperately looks for a person that will be able to bring healing to the traumatized horse. The man she finds is called a “horse whisperer.” What is a horse whisperer? Well, the Wikipedia comments:
Natural horsemanship, colloquially known as horse whispering, is a collective term for a variety of horse training techniques which have seen rapid growth in popularity since the 1980s. The techniques vary in their precise tenets but generally share principles of developing a rapport with horses, using communication techniques derived from observation of free-roaming horses, and rejecting abusive training methods.
Through the training in the movie, the lead character teaches the horse that he can trust human beings again and brings him back under control. But, on the side he is also reaching out to the teenager, to restore her confidence, to stretch her and make her willing to take appropriate chances again. At one point he even has her drive a pickup truck on a farm dirt road with him as a passenger. She protests that she has never driven before and he tells her that there is no time like the present to begin to learn to drive. She trusts him and begins to learn to drive. She trusts him and begins to unwind from her trauma.
These “trust exercises” finally lead up to the point that he asks her to get on the very horse on which she was mounted when the horrific accident happened. His words struck me, “Trust me just one more time.” As far as she was concerned, she was taking a chance on being severely injured again. But, the man she had come to have faith in was now looking her in the eye and asking for her trust. Based on her experience of him, she mounts the horse; she has the confidence that if he says that the horse is once again trustworthy then that itself is a statement worth trusting. As she rides the horse she loved, the horse on which she was injured, the horse that had become unmanageable and is now manageable, a smile breaks out on her face and she relaxes in joy and victory.
And, I found myself thinking of how often the Lord trains us in the same way. Both the horse and the girl needed something. In the case of the horse, he was put under the pressure of the training until he learned to say “yes” and willingly carry the burdens he was asked to carry. In the case of the girl, she was not put under pressure, but kept being encouraged to stretch her limits. Each small step meant that she was simply asked to take another, and bigger, step. In one case, the horse whisperer used pressure in the other he used encouragement. God so often works that way with different ones of us. Some of us are like the joke about the mule who needs to be smacked in the head with a two by four so that he will pay attention. Others of us are like the very hurt girl who simply need tiny bits of encouragement in order to open up from whatever traumas we have suffered in order to trust, to have faith again.
But, in either case we are called to go and do things that we never thought we would do (again). The great miracles, the great martyrdoms, the great evangelizations, the great theological writings, were not simply “done” by great saints. Rather, normal people were led by grace to take bigger and bigger steps until the time that the Lord asked for that final big one. We remember them now as great saints, but they are simply human beings who were led step by step into a trust relationship that included a willingness to do whatever one was asked to do. The great “feats” are not “feats,” they are simply trusting God, “just one more time.”