Wild Horses

My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness. ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9

When I was a young child, our family of four would travel once a year from the apple belt in Washington state to the breadbasket of America in Kansas to visit my mom’s and dad’s families. I absolutely loved our trips “home” to visit cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.

My dad grew up in rural Kansas surrounded by never ending wheat fields, big skies, and open space to roam the land. My cousins and I spent our time together looking for water snakes and turtles while wandering up and down slow-moving creeks.

When we were tired, we’d go back to the farmhouse for a drink of water and some ice cream. “What do you want to do now?” my cousin Kevin would ask. “Let’s go fishing.” We would dig for worms, put them in an empty can with dirt, grab a couple of fishing poles, and head off to the muddy creek again.

I knew I would catch the biggest catfish ever in the history of Kansas, and I wondered what I would do if the big fish broke my pole. Would I jump in the creek to catch the runaway fish, and would it swallow me up?

Once we got to the creek, my cousins and I would find an old shade tree to sit under, and then we cast our lines into the water and waited. We told tall tales that rivaled any story Tom Sawyer could spin. When the red and white bobber went under, I would jump up, set the hook, and reel in the giant catfish which was never any bigger than the length of my hand, a reality check on the “whopper stories” that I dreamed.

After fishing, we played tag and hide-and_seek in the barn and picked swollen ticks off the dogs. Life could not get much better. And always in the afternoon, Mom and Dad would come by. “Craig, let’s go see Grandpa.” “Can I stay and play?” “No, we need to go see Grandpa.” Reluctantly, I got in the car.

Grandpa Paschal lived in the nursing home in a long room with several other Grandpas. Each of them had a single bed, a chest of drawers for clothes, and a chair. Dad, Mom, and Grandpa would talk, and my sister Becky and I would aimlessly look out the window.

One lazy afternoon, Grandpa said, “Craig, do you see those wild horses out in the wheatfield?” “Wild horses!” I thought. “This is better than finding turtles and snakes!” I straightened up in my chair and asked, “Where Grandpa?” He pointed out the window. “See that spotted one. She’s beautiful.” I said, “I can’t see her Grandpa.” “You have to learn to look,” he said. Grandpa went into amazing detail describing these three wild horses. He had me in the palm of his hand. Dad chuckled, “I can see them too. I bet they are part of the herd that roamed near our farm.”

“You had wild horses on the farm?” I asked. “Oh, we had everything,” Grandpa said, and he told me stories. Years later, as an adult looking back, I realized that Grandpa could spin a yarn better than me or my cousins. Before Grandpa was in the nursing home, he rode “wild, wild horses.” I hope to ride them someday as well.

One year, we went to see Grandpa in the nursing home and his leg was gone. Dad said it was complications from diabetes. I did not know what to say, so I looked out the window for the wild horses in the wheat field, and Grandpa quietly held my hand. He did not say much anymore.

When my dad grew old, he got diabetes like Grandpa. Dad’s kidneys failed and he went on dialysis three times a week. He did not feel too good most of the time. As his diabetes progressed, the doctors amputated his leg above the knee.

Mom told me that she walked into their bedroom one night and Dad was sobbing. “I didn’t know,” Dad said through his tears. “What didn’t you know, Bob?” Mom asked. “I didn’t know what my dad went through in that nursing home.” Dad wept.

My dad’s pain and suffering broke his heart open. As his physical strength diminished, sorrow poured out of his heart until it was empty. Grace, love, and empathy filled the hole. He was no longer blind, he could see. I do not even remember which leg Dad lost, but I do remember the great love and compassion he shared with us because of his suffering.

No one can escape life unwounded; it is the human condition. Do pain and suffering make us more loving, more compassionate, and more forgiving? Or does suffering make us more bitter, angrier?

Is Grace sufficient for us? Is power made perfect in weakness?

When my dad could no longer walk with me, we could hold hands, and ride wild horses in the wheat fields. It was enough. May we trust God’s Grace in all things, and may our wounds become sacred.

Blessings and peace,