A Challenging Question
By Betsy Kelleher
I recently received a comment from a reader regarding a sensitive issue. She is Jewish. She told me she has horses and she likes my columns, but she asked me why I feel I need to add Jesus into my story. She accused me of assuming that all my readers are followers of Jesus. What if they aren’t? Her point was quite thought-provoking!
I emailed back to explain my reasoning, and she replied with her own perspective, ending with the hope that she hadn’t offended me, but maybe educated me on her own religion. Rather than being offended in any way, I appreciated this cordial, informative exchange of viewpoints. It has prompted me to think further about this issue. Although I thought I understood the Jewish religion and I have read the Old Testament upon which it is based, I honestly had given no thought to the fact that Jews do not believe in a triune God, but only in one Being, the God of the Old Testament. In fact, she mentioned that belief in Jesus or the Holy Spirit is forbidden because it violates the first commandment of having no other gods before God alone. Seeing this from her viewpoint was again quite thought-provoking! Knowing that the Jewish nation is God’s chosen people, I respect this reader’s beliefs. I hope she can respect mine.
I usually use the one name of God simply because I believe that name to include Jesus and the Holy Spirit. But I am now reminded that this is a personal belief not held by everyone. I assumed my column is read mostly by Christians, but I know there are many who do not agree. I feel humbled that non-Christians are among my readers.
I believe it is good to be challenged now and then by what others know, believe or have experienced. I hope that my readers are sometimes challenged by my words and experiences as well. I am not offended to hear from readers who do not share my belief. I believe we all should have the freedom to be who we are and to believe what we choose, as long as we can allow others the same freedom. When challenged by new things, we can often learn new ways or reaffirm what we already believe.
While working with my horses, even after many years of riding, I sometimes take riding lessons to help with a specific situation, or just to get me started again after not being on a horse for awhile. I would love to have time for an extended clinic on developing greater confidence for me and my horse. We never know it all, and we can’t grow unless we are willing to learn. This applies to life as well as horses.
I write this column to share how God has used horses in my life. As I’ve learned something while working with horses, I often realize a parallel thought regarding my relationship to God. I share my own opinion and belief, not that of this newspaper, and I realize not everyone will agree. But as the writer of this column, I simply exercise my own freedom of expression. I share what I have experienced and what I believe.
It began back in 1977, when I got my first horse, a young green broke Appaloosa mare named Fanny. My oldest son had used her for a 4-H project for three years. I had tried to help him, since I was the horse person in the family. That simply meant that my Grandpa had owned and trained horses and I gained my love of horses from him. My first riding horse was one of his team of Percherons. But I soon learned that actually owning a horse myself could be a scary responsibility!
When I took over Fanny’s ownership, I suddenly realized how little I knew. I needed serious help, so I planned to take Fanny to a trainer. One thing after another got in my way, until one day I stopped to ask God what HE wanted me to do with this energetic, headstrong mare that intimidated me. A few days later, I met a woman who became my best friend as she helped me train Fanny. From then on, I seemed to be watching God at work, revealing a message of relationship. As I worked to find partnership with my mare, I realized that God was working with me in a parallel journey to find intimate partnership with Him.
That experience was too special not to share. I started writing about things that happened, but it took 30 years for the initial idea to become a published book, Sometimes a Woman Needs a Horse, in 2004. Meanwhile, starting in December of 1995, I shared horse-related experiences in this column.
I don’t want my articles to merely “add” Jesus into my horse-related stories. Ever since my experiences with Fanny, I have found God to be personally involved in my life with horses. I believe He has used my experiences to teach me spiritual principles, and I am well aware that I don’t know it all and never will. But I believe that Jesus is my personal Savior, and as such, He works in and through me from His Spirit that dwells within me. I can’t explain it, but I have experienced it.
This reader did mention that Jewish people don’t proselytize, hinting perhaps that I did. I’ve been accused of that very thing before, by a very close friend! I perhaps should apologize to my readers, because yes, I could be found guilty of preaching even though I am not a preacher. While I don’t wish to offend, however, I am not ashamed of sharing what I believe.
Romans 1:16 (NIV) states, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” My Jewish reader’s challenge has caused me to look at my columns from a new viewpoint, for which I am thankful. Because now I understand more than ever my responsibility to speak the truth in love and to stand firm in what I believe. Again, I see how God, through His Holy Spirit, brings us along in this journey of life, teaching us, opening up our minds to new knowledge and understanding.
I am not writing this column to persuade others to believe as I do. I’m sorry if it sounds that way. Basically, I hope to share something of value to other horse lovers, even though I am not a horse trainer or expert. I want to share my horse-related experiences that have also taught me some deeper understanding of spiritual insight. I hope someone out there shares my joy in the discovery.
Questions and challenges that cause us to face our beliefs are good for us. If the questions don’t have good answers, it’s time to do some soul searching. But if the answers confirm what we know inside to be real and that it is worth defending, then we can be grateful for the challenge.
(Originally published in the May 2013 issue of the Illinois Horse Network)