I have really good friends- the kind who will keep my gelding for me when my fences have gaps in them; who feed him chopped up, organic carrots; who let him pick fruit off their little apple tree, and who injure themselves fixing up a shed for him. Why any horse would want to wander away from digs like that and people like that is beyond me, but a week ago, he did it. Frolic discovered an open gate, hauled his bony behind up the long hill to my house, and followed his nose to the garage where we keep his feed.
I was shocked to find him there, but it was a much greater shock to my border collie puppy, who must have thought the ancient Welsh pony was Horsezilla. Seamus bravely planted his little feet in the instinctive “prey stance’ and froze. I didn’t expect him to make a sound – he was much too busy sizing up his enemy- but the other three dogs were barking their heads off. Unconcerned, Frolic, shifted from foot to foot, and swished his tail, patiently waiting for me to make a plan.
Eventually, it was done. The bony pony was imprisoned in his old stall, quietly slurping up geratric formula, shifting from foot to foot, and swishing his tail. The puppy was calm and crated, chewing on a toy. The disappointed adult dogs had wandered off to bask on the back porch. And the menagerie owner was seated at the breakfast room table, sipping hot tea, resting her knees and thinking.
How is it that an old horse, gaunt, arthritic, and lonely, can find motivation to trudge up a long, steep hill, ignore the threatening sounds of prey animals, and patiently wait for his owner to arrive and provide for him? If I weren’t old and arthritic myself, I might not even be wondering – but I can identify with the pain in his knees, and marvel at his perseverance. At 32, he still cares about grass, feed and water. At 32, he still follows his nose wherever his legs will take him. Does he remember better days, when he jumped hurdles, took trail rides, and grazed with a herd? Who knows? What I do know is that every time I ask the vet whether he’s suffering too much, she says, “No, he’s still got spunk; he still cares.”
When the Israelites were conquering Canaan, an old man did an amazing thing. At 85, he began to conquer the hill country of Hebron. Having fought alongside his brothers for many years, helping them to claim their inheritance, he started off on a quest of his own.
“Now behold, the Lord has let me live, just as He spoke, these forty-five years, from the time that the Lord spoke this word to Moses, when Israel walked in the wilderness; and now behold, I am eighty-five years old today. 11 I am still as strong today as I was in the day Moses sent me; as my strength was then, so my strength is now, for war and for going out and coming in. 12 Now then, give me this hill country about which the Lord spoke on that day, for you heard on that day that Anakim were there, with great fortified cities; perhaps the Lord will be with me, and I will drive them out as the Lord has spoken.” Joshua 14: 10-12
What motivated Caleb to begin a new quest on his 85th birthday? What kept him adventurous and inspired him to climb steep hills in pursuit of his goals? I think the text tells us: “…the Lord has let me live…”, “the Lord spoke this word…”, “give me this hill country about which the Lord spoke…”, “perhaps the Lord will be with me…”, “I will drive them out as the Lord has spoken.” Apparently- God had something to do with it.
I don’t think Frolic worries about his life. In meandering through the pasture, searching for clover and flicking flies, he is content. The fact that life is harder than it used to be doesn’t seem to matter to him, because he knows instinctively, what humans can only know through faith- that as long as we live, we have purpose.