(last edited 3/05)

OUT OF THE ARENA



Many a horse spends most of his life being ridden in an arena. After awhile, this horse becomes dull and sour. He needs to be taken outside. He needs to see new country, to get out into the real world.

At first, the arena horse may not function well in an open environment. Having come to depend on the fence, he doesn't know how to travel in a straight line without it beside him. He can't lope a circle without the fence to guide him. The fence has been an excuse for the rider to be lazy; instead of teaching the horse to be guided by his aids, he has allowed the horse to be guided by the fence. He has not thought ahead to what might happen if a fence wasn't there. Ironically, some champion pleasure horses cannot be ridden outside the arena.

In his sheltered environment, the arena horse has not been exposed to the common elements of real life. He doesn't know how to cross a road or go through bushes. He has no stamina for a trail ride, because his muscles have not been developed by going uphill and down, navigating uneven ground, or crossing obstacles such as logs or ditches.

The horse whose main function in life is to be shown will need to spend much time in the arena. But he will benefit from the mental and physical stimulus of regular and frequent outside rides. The variation in scenery and routine will keep him fresh, and the variation in terrain will improve the way he carries himself, particularly in the use of his hind quarters, where his impulsion comes from.

Just as it is unnatural for the horse to spend its life in the arena, it is unnatural for the Christian to spend his whole life in the sheltered, narrow environment of the church. We can get so involved in all the church activities that there is no time left for anything outside of work, church and home. We mistake Church-ianity for Christianity. The emphasis gets put on external activities, rather than the private spiritual disciplines of prayer, personal Bible study, and meditation on the Word.

So as not to become worldly, it is tempting to keep a buffer between ourselves and the world. But the Bible does not tell us to flee the world, just to keep from being conformed to it. We go to church to be fed and strengthened, but then we need to get out of the arena of the sheltered life and go out into the world.

John 17:18 [Jesus said] "As Thou didst send Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world."

If our many Christian activities are done out of a feeling of duty to others in the church, rather than joyful service to the Lord, we can get soured up. Staying in the safety of the Christian enclave keeps the focus on ministering to Self and to believers only, rather than to unbelievers. This can be a real problem for some pastors, who spend so much time in the arena that they have difficulty relating to non-arena types.

We can get so dependent on the security of the church, or our Christian subculture, that we are downright uncomfortable around unbelievers; our sensitivities are offended by their smoking, drinking, and cussing. But just as Jesus wasn't too "holy" to mingle with and minister to sinners, so we should also cultivate friendships with unbelievers. We need to be able to talk with unbelievers without using Christian jargon.

As we balance arena work with plenty of outside rides, the variation in surroundings will keep us fresh, and our spiritual muscles will be exercised and strengthened.

Copyright 1998 by Jan Young

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