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The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it. – Moliėre
I adjure Thee by Thy might, O my God! Let no harm beset me in times of tests, and in moments of heedlessness guide my steps aright through Thine inspiration. Thou art God, potent art Thou to do what Thou desirest. No one can withstand Thy Will or thwart Thy Purpose.- The Bab, Baha’i Prayers, p. 28.
Sometimes serious accidents or major challenges can result in something positive. I witnessed an accident of this sort about a decade ago, and it changed my perspective on life.
It was October of 2003, and my husband and I went horseback riding. We had met the horses’ owner through some Baha’i friends, and we drove to his lovely farm in northwestern Illinois.
My husband Kurt rode Boss, a large, dark-brown, Friesian-Mustang horse. I rode a graceful Arabian horse, but that’s a story for another time.
The owner mentioned that Boss was independent, quite strong, and had a lot of “character.” She had adopted the mighty Friesian-Mustang after his original owner grew tired of the expenses involved in capturing and recapturing him, because Boss loved jumping fences and escaping. Captured a few times via a helicopter-suspended and hammock-style net, Boss also frequently bucked off his riders.
After hearing those stories of Boss and his adventures, would anyone risk a ride on Boss? Oh, yes—my husband decided that he would take that challenge. The concerned and overprotective wife that I am, I encouraged Kurt to wear a helmet. Okay, I didn’t give him much of a choice not to wear a helmet. Sighing and thinking that I worried too much (which I am known to do, from time to time), he reluctantly wore the helmet. And boy, was it a darn good thing that he did.
Boss proved so gargantuan that Kurt needed a small ladder to reach the stirrups (note: Kurt is 6’1″). My husband stepped onto the ladder, put his left foot in the stirrups, and reached for the reins. As he swung his right leg over Boss’s wide back, raucous noises occurred on the far side of the field. Perhaps startled by the sounds, Boss took off at a gallop.
Kurt’s right leg never made it all the way across Boss’s back to the other side of the saddle. The owner and I looked on, terrified, as his gallop took him in a wide—wild—circle. Boss turned abruptly, returned to the ladder, and stopped suddenly.
Kurt, with his hands not yet secure on the reins and only one foot on the stirrups, flew off of the mighty horse. We watched in horror as he spun three revolutions in the air and landed with a thud. Dust blew up from the ground and he lay still.
Frightened at what I might find, I said a silent prayer and ran to his side. White as a ghost, Kurt looked up at me as I knelt beside him. He smiled and laughed when we asked him his name and the current year. Thankfully, he was fine, and he didn’t have a concussion.
Before this fall, Kurt had major back issues. His spine was curved like an old, winding country road, and he often had pain. He visited the chiropractor often for spinal alignments. After this fall, the doc looked at his X-rays with a mixture of amazement and confusion. The fall had actually straightened his back!
That summer ride on Boss affected me in different ways than it did my husband. He felt relief from pain; I felt grateful that he not only had less pain, but that he’d survived. He had the rare opportunity of riding a challenging yet magnificent creature; I realized that prayers (and helmets) truly do work. But most importantly, I realized I had caught a glimpse of the fragility of life, and took it as a reminder that circumstances often spin out of our control.
That accidental alignment of my husband’s back realigned not only his spine but my perspective. I relearned some things that sat under dusty cobwebs in my soul: Live in the present. Sometimes positive experiences emerge from stressful situations and challenges. You never know when life may take you for a ride:
O Thou compassionate Lord, Thou Who art generous and able! We are servants of Thine sheltered beneath Thy providence. Cast Thy glance of favor upon us. Give light to our eyes, hearing to our ears, and understanding and love to our hearts. Render our souls joyous and happy through Thy glad tidings. O Lord! Point out to us the pathway of Thy kingdom and resuscitate all of us through the breaths of the Holy Spirit…. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 118.