Shiny Hearts

My horse, Architect's Red Rose, is the most gorgeous horse in the entire universe, and I'm blessed enough to be her 'owner'. She has a red-gold coat of burnished copper that gleams even at night and when the sun isn't out. Her ebony tail is long and flowing and streams out gracefully behind her as she moves. A smooth, polished, muscular body atop slender legs and dainty hooves complete the picture. Her carriage is that of self-importance and grace, one that suggests she has a hint of royalty about her and the way is to be made for her. In the show ring and at home, she commands an undeniable presence. Her appearance is striking, and she knows it.

Architect's Red Rose struts her stuff in front of the judges. She loves to show off, and she loves to jump. She puts everything she can into what she does, so that everyone can see how much effort she puts forth. With this little mare it's double or nothing, and you're always going to get double.

I couldn't help thinking about how stunning she is tonight as one of my young students, a 7-year-old girl, was grooming her within an inch of her life. After we put the saddle and bridle away, Natalie begged to put Laser Sheen on 'Prissy' to make her soft and shiny. I agreed and gave her the bottle. This precious little girl then proceeded to cover my mare with coat polish and brush her until she gleamed. Prissy's mane and tail were brushed out, her head held up proud and high, ears perked forward and a big horsey smile on her face. Natalie took extra care around the spots where Prissy has been cut from the other horses in the pasture, but she still managed to get that horse looking absolutely beautiful.

It's funny though sometimes this beautiful horse can make me more upset than anything else in the entire world. She'll refuse to go over a jump and thus nearly throw me onto the ground, spook at something that's not even there, curve to the inside without being asked to, trot too fast and refuse to slow down, throw all her weight on her forehand and make me crank back on her to get her weight evenly distributed between her hindquarters and front end. All of these faults tend to spoil the entire picture perfect image. Sometimes it's my fault, sometimes it's just bullheadedness on her part. Her attitude and demeanor don't always match up to the picture presented on the outside of the package, that's for sure.

Now that I think about all this, I wonder, are we as humans the same way? Do we put that much care into our appearance? For me personally, I get up about 30 minutes before I have to be at work, take a quick shower, throw my wet hair into a ponytail so I don't have to bother drying it, put something nice on and head out the door. I prepare my lunch and clothes the night before so I don't have to bother with them in the morning and so delay my entrance at work. It's pretty evident that I don't care to make the outside look like something it's not. I'd rather let people see who I am naturally ' that's why I usually don't even wear makeup. It's too much of a pain to put on, and it rubs off by the end of the day anyway.

How about you? How much do you spend on your 'look'? Do you spend a lot of time and money on things that will 'make the man'?

Don't get me wrong ' I'm not saying that either one of us is in the right or wrong. If you care a lot about how you look, kudos to you. I care about how I look as well, but I'm definitely not obsessive about it. The point here is, though, not about the exterior. This is about what our attitudes are like. Who are we when no one is looking? What does our character look like? How do we clean up on the inside? Do we put on a face for the world to see, but consider ourselves to be someone completely different? Are we shiny on the outside, picture perfect, but once we start moving out we fall all to pieces and look horrible?

1 Samuel 16:7 says 'The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.' That should tell us something right there! Even though in the horse world it's different, obviously, you want your horse to impress the judges ' God looks at something different. He doesn't judge people based on what they look like'. He judges them based on what's in their heart! To our Father, it's all about what we believe, how we live, how we care for others and for the things he's placed in our care.

In talking about women, Peter says in 1 Peter 2:3-4 that 'Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight.' Prissy's gleaming coat is of great worth in my sight. But recently, this weekend, her throat was swollen and she was limping. At that point it really didn't matter to me what she looked like on the outside, as long as she was going to be okay on the inside. The outside is superficial ' the Bible says that 'charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting' and that is Oh-So-True. Everyone ages and no one stays beautiful forever, not even horses.

When I was younger, I used to care a great deal about my appearance, much like I care about my horse's appearance now. But as I realized that it was the inside that mattered more, I came to dwell less on what I looked like to Man but started to consider what I look like to God. I don't want to be like the Pharisees that Matthew wrote about in Matthew 23:27 where he said 'Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean.'

I want Prissy to always have a good attitude, put her all into everything, and be as beautiful when I'm working with her as she is on the outside. Unfortunately, that's not always going to happen. But even though I can't dictate what my horse is like on the inside, I can and will take charge of what happens in my own heart. Regular Bible study and prayer (clichéd though it may sound) are key to this. Make sure you're developing a personal relationship with Christ. Jesus said to 'Be perfect, even as I am perfect.' What a high calling! I for one have a long way to go before I attain that goal. Won't you join me in focusing more on the inward aspect than so much on how we look to others? Shouldn't we be pointing people to the truth instead of deceiving them as to who we really are?