Tuesday, March 29, 2011


On my recent outing to the Arizona Cowboy College, I was reminded of how important the relationship between the horse and the rider is. I confidently asked for a feisty horse. What I meant to ask for was a spirited horse. The ranch hands provided me with Lucky, a great horse, only they didn’t anticipate I was not a great rider. I thought I was anyway. Only, I came to discover my previous horseback riding involved horses tolerant of unskilled riders. Tolerant that is of the mixed messages I communicated with erratic commands from the reigns and stirrups.

Lucky waited for specific actions from me to steer him in the varied directions we were to go wrangling the calves. When he didn’t receive cues the way he expected them, he rebelled: he wouldn’t turn or move my way. I insisted he move left even though my cues did not communicate that to him. Instead of me adjusting to meet his needs, I continued to keep doing the same thing over and over and Lucky’s rebellion persisted. Finally, the cowboys gave me some instruction on how to go about giving Lucky the commands he wanted and voila.

A good rider can hear his horse speak to him, a great rider can hear his horse whisper, but a bad rider won’t hear his horse even if it screams at him.
- anonymous

I am coming to learn legalism and overprotection is toxic to a child1. Adventure and curiosity is in the heart of every child. Discipline is from God. So like the cowboys giving me instruction on how to handle a horse, I want to be able to administer God’s rules and standards without adding countless regulations beyond the Bible. That is to say, I want to allow curiosity and adventure to occur without raising a child who opposes authority, especially the authority of God. I want to know the ins and outs of training my child in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6) without making them feel oppressed (Ephesians 6:4) by a set of rules and regulations. I want to know how to teach my children to negotiate the obstacles of the world but not participate in them. And an even loftier goal is to equip them to show others how to avoid and parley their way around them as well.

Dr. Tim Kimmel, the Christian parenting guru, directs me to establish a grace-based home: a home that allows children to make mistakes by delivering God’s grace and mercy (Psalm 103:8-14) when they fall short all while conducting appropriate rebuking and retraining2 (Hebrews 12:10b, Revelation 3:19a). The end goal is to emphasize a genuine heart connection to God rather than highlighting an external performance standard (Matthew -28).

My genuine fear of the negative cultural influences television, public schools, Hollywood, or unbelieving friends offer demonstrates to my little girls my lack of trust in God’s power and presence over the prince of this world (Satan). My control of their every move discounts my faith in His love for them. I must allow the practical application of His Word to drench their everyday lives so that they take ownership that He is mighty, He is awesome, and He is in control (1 John 4:4).

Like Lucky rebelling when I gave Him mixed messages, my daughters will rebel if I allow my high control to trump God’s power over the enemy (James 4:7). As a parent, I must be strong and courageous not terrified or discouraged when the influences of the world threaten the innocence of my girls (Joshua 1:9). I am to build my little girls up in authentic hope:

  • They are known personally by the almighty Creator not a product of random chance happening (Psalm 139).
  • They are an heir to the kingdom of God not an orphan apart from His eternal love (Galatians 4:7).
  • They are made uniquely for His divine purposes not another meaningless person on an attendance sheet (Jeremiah 29:11).
  • They are safe and protected by God not lonely and abandoned (Psalm 23).
  • They are accepted and acceptable to God just as they are not an outsider or outcast (Romans 8:1).

I must have faith this hope will put off the counterfeit solutions of false hope the enemy will present to them.

Children develop a strong hope for the future when their parents lead them and encourage them to live a life of adventure.
- Dr. Tim Kimmel

Buy Dr. Kimmel's book The High Cost of High Control.

Be sure to read other posts in this Calf Wrangling series:

The Rider
The Horse
The Relationship
The Roundup
The Team


1. Kimmel, Dr. Tim. The High Cost of High Control.
2. Kimmel, Dr. Tim. Grace Based Parenting.


Anonymous said...

Very well said! I think we should also keep the age of our horse... I mean child... in mind. Very young children will need more shelter, older kids who have begun to learn to reason need less. Young adults who are getting ready to tackle the world on their own will need more of a supporting role. Loved this post!