Journey Post 35: Running With Horses
A note to readers: I’ve begun writing more frequently …. I have something to say. I hope you find it worth listening.
The world is filled with horse pucky.
Pucky? We bought a piece of horse property years ago (2/3 acre), so I often ponder this profound word.
“Horse pucky” (or simply, “pucky”) is the word I use when terms like “BS” and “crap” are just a bit too crude for sensibilities. Using “pucky” can put a lighter spin on realities that are too dark and heavy to drop on someone all at once. (“Spin” is a particular type of pucky that highlights certain positive or negative aspects—thereby distracting others away from the true smell.) Often, the person putting out the pucky believes or wants to believe their own pucky. (Sincerity can make them seem more credible or authoritative.) Horse pucky can be spread around or conveniently contained in a crock.
Horse pucky can be figurative or literal, of course. I don’t know if Pew Research has any stats on the topic, but production of the figurative type seems vastly more prolific than the literal. Both types act as fertilizers, which might explain why the literal is not found piled so high and deep. Literal pucky works its way into the land and enriches the soil. The figurative kind seems definitely piled higher and deeper: it works its way into the culture and despoils the soul.
Piled higher and deeper? P, h, and d …. I think I’m onto something. Is there a school for this?
Yes, I’m enjoying this; and yes, it’s going somewhere. I just didn’t realize that pucky has so many parallels and applications to real life!
Please pardon the vocabulary lesson. This is really an excursus on speaking and/or seeking truth. All my mention of pucky might lead you to think I’m writing another essay about American culture and politics or academia. You’d only be partly right. Actually I’m talking about American religious culture. Please note that I didn’t use the word “Christian” or “evangelical” on purpose. There’s nothing remotely Christian about pucky.
When I was a kid, there was a popular expression: “I got it straight from the horse’s mouth.” I suspect we don’t hear the phrase much anymore because what comes out of the horse’s mouth these days is often readily dismissed as pucky.
The expression was so meaningful to me because I was deeply involved in digging into history, looking for evidence (starting with Davy Crockett and the Alamo as a pre-teen). At the time, the culture was at least giving lip service to seeking truth. Even in the 1960s, seeking truth was considered a lofty goal.
Back then, I prided myself on being a truth seeker. When I came back from Vietnam disenchanted with my country, I directed my energies into serious study of history and political science so I could figure out truth. Finding truth about America did little to restore my faith in our nation at that time, but finding truth about the resurrection of Jesus began to restore my faith in the living God.
For the past few years, I’ve been learning that there’s a big difference in being a truth seeker and a truth talker. That’s what was behind my statement last post about being social but not often truly relational. Genuine relationships are built on truth telling: it’s not that I kept telling outright lies, but it was uncomfortable and threatening for me to reveal what’s truly going on inside, especially in my marriage. It’s so much easier to say something to deflect Michelle away from the real me (another form of pucky).
I grew up thinking that I didn’t matter much, so, while I desperately wanted people to accept me because I was smart (or funny, or whatever), I don’t know that it ever occurred to me that they might do so just because I’m me. Pretty bad, huh? I’m not alone, of course. If you consider what this does to communication, it’s a miracle (really) that Michelle and I have been married forty-five years. Genuine honesty is just plain threatening. Thinking this way left me with a nearly life-long impression of myself as one who lacks integrity and courage.
This thinking is what made understanding my adoption by God so liberating. When I discovered that my Father was there delighting in me (Proverbs 3:12)—even when using the 2×4—I knew I no longer had to be afraid of him, though I still feared him like a child who fears displeasing a loving dad. Therefore, I don’t have to be afraid of what others think, even though I push ‘play’ occasionally on that old tape.
No surprise, then, that it impresses me greatly when I find a truth teller. I met one of those while I was in Colorado with Michelle last month. During that week, I was pondering the correlation between integrity, courage, truth seeking, and truth telling (honesty). And of course, I thought on that expression about the horse’s mouth quite a bit. The “horse” kept demonstrating what it meant to be a truth teller in various ways as we listened, conversed, thought about some writings, etc. I asked questions and watched, but could detect no pucky (my nose is pretty good). This particular horse had been the subject of much pucky, both glibly spread out and contained in crocks packaged by people highly regarded. He wasn’t trying to parade his non-puckiness; it was just there.
Since that week, as you might gather, I’ve been seeking to reexamine some assumptions. (I shared a little last post.) I thought about the questions of the Pharisees as they watched Jesus sitting eating with tax collectors and other “sinners” (their pigeonhole for these people): “Why does he eat with such?” They were so sure there was something wrong with these people; therefore, there must be something wrong with Jesus.
Meanwhile, those people sitting with Jesus were beginning to get a taste of eternal life.
I’ve been thinking about the minutes I spent talking with another person who sought to help me get direction from the Lord during our time there. At one point, she said to me, “Walt, I see you as the man of integrity and courage that you long to be.” I didn’t know what to think at first. But I realized that in those moments I was getting a taste of the life Jesus brought to give, simply because that person sought to pay attention to what the Spirit was doing in my soul and listening to the godly desire I was expressing. There was no pucky here, nothing despoiling my soul but enriching it in the best way.
Looking back, I recognized she was reiterating what the Holy Spirit had prompted the apostle Paul to say to his protégé Timothy: “God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2nd Timothy 1:7). That same Spirit lives in me and in all God’s children, more realized as we seek to draw near to him, and listen to his invitation to keep running the race close to him.
That week I took a few steps out onto a track where horses run. It’s not a very wide track. Jesus called it narrow. I encountered several other horses running the race—none of whom would we likely label thoroughbreds. I hope they won’t mind being joined by a donkey. I’ll keep going even if they do mind.