Mom had just finished squeezing the juice from the chokecherries, the paraffin wax was melting in the double boiler, and the jars were ready for the syrup and jellies that would grace our table through the winter. She looked out the kitchen window and saw my horse with an empty saddle galloping through the field towards the house. She quickly rinsed her hands and went outside to catch her. This was the third day in a row.
I finally got back to the house, dirty from falling in the soft summer fallow when my horse freaked out at a flock of prairie chickens that squawked and flew out from under her in the tall prairie grass.
“Kathy, you have to tell me where you are going when you get on your horse. I would have had no idea where to find you if you broke a leg and couldn’t walk home!” Mom exclaimed.
“The prairie is wide open!” I protested. “I don’t even know where I’ll be riding. Sometimes I ride to the old homestead in the pasture, or ride to the fields where dad’s working. Sometimes I visit Mr. Wertz. I never know where I’ll end up until I’m there! There’s so much life to live!!”
“Okay,” she laughed, “but you have to choose a direction, and stick with it. North, South, East, or West.”
I was living life. I took the risk, got on the horse and rode in the wind. And once in a while there was an empty saddle.
In our society we are taught “Safety First”. Nobody really means that. I mean, safety is important, but it isn’t first! Everything we do is a risk. We get in our cars, we get in an elevator, ride motorcycles, horses, bicycles, boats, hike in the woods, and walk down steps. Sure, we use safety devices, seatbelts, helmets, life vests, carry a gun, use hand rails, but truly life is first and we navigate through life as safely as we can. Life is before us, so we live life!
When my son was very young, he was deep in thought. He said, “I’m going to live ‘til I die, Mom.”
I laughed. My children often said things that were funny, yet profound. Obviously, he will live until he takes his last breath, but how many of us really plan to “live until we die?”
If you are young, live this life to its fullest. Find your passion. You only have one chance at this life on earth, and you were created with a purpose. As you live your life, and seek God, His purpose will become evident. Life is wins and losses. Never be afraid of the empty saddle.
Are you older? Have you already had a full life? When the kids start leaving home, parents often feel like their purpose has been fulfilled. (It’s not over yet!) When retirement comes, we have a lifetime of memories–good memories and memories of empty saddles. We could just sit around and fill our lives with gameshows and football, but there is just so much more life to live. There are people to encourage, family and friends to influence, and projects to be done so we can have a sense of accomplishment. There is just so much more life to live!
Our question when a chapter in our life ends should always be, “Okay, God, what’s next?” God always has a “next” prepared for you.
Corrie ten Boom, author of The Hiding Place lived during WWII and was arrested and sent to a concentration camp because her family hid and saved countless Jews in their home. After a fulfilling life lived for Jesus, God called her to a traveling ministry at the age 80. God gave her a word that He was going to give her a traveling ministry. Over the next decade, Corrie ten Boom was an international Christian speaker, ministering to thousands of people all over the world. At 80 years of age!
Throughout the current pandemic, the words “have a good day” have been replaced by “be safe”. I believe in safety. As I get older, I no longer run down the stairs like I did as a kid. I probably will never ride a horse like I did in my 20’s.
But that doesn’t mean life is over!
One of my favorite stories as a child was the story of a priest who God called to minister to the Lepers. I found the story, and it truly is an amazing testimony of God’s goodness. Father Damien (1840-1889) spent years ministering to the Lepers on the island that is now Hawaii. He cared for the patients himself, dressing their wounds and encouraging them as well as provided leadership in building houses, schools, roads, hospitals, and churches. He worked side by side with them making coffins, digging graves, and sharing meals with the infected. He believed God had sent him there, and he chose to live until he died, doing the work God set before him. He did this knowing the risk! One Sunday he spoke and said, “We lepers”, letting them know he had become one of them.
“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” Matthew 16:2
What’s next for you? The safest place we can be is in the center of God’s will. God’s word to His church is “occupy until He comes.” Live this life to its fullest. And when He calls us home, the people who have been touched by you will celebrate that empty saddle.
My close friend and sister-in-law had cancer. We prayed and believed God for a miracle. I had a word for her: “Choose Life.” And she did. She lived her life to the fullest until the Lord called her home.
Don’t be afraid to live until you die. Empty saddles happen – business ventures that don’t work out, infertility, loss of a loved one, loss of a dream, a failed ministry, a failed love relationship. Some are disappointing, some are devastating, but we choose if we are going to choose life. With the comfort and guidance of the Holy Spirit, I’ve decided, I’m not going to fear empty saddles. I’m going to live until I die.