Going Round in Circles

One of my personal goals is to go round in circles, time after time again, in exactly the same way. Let me explain.


“Another twenty-metre circle at E. Keep those heels down, keep those hands still…nice, steady trot, keeping that tension on the inner rein. Keep looking in the direction where you want to go…Come on, John, what sort of a circle is that?” Alas, as I look at the chippings on the floor of the arena, I notice the two non-concentric, irregular patterns our hoof marks have created. Oops.

So, to make a circle, I have to look around the bend. My body language gives the horse a subtle message that this is our destination.

One of Lockdown’s casualties has been the riding lessons that I normally enjoy, at the equestrian centre in Clifton. Twenty metre circles aren’t the most exciting part of my lessons but they’re an excellent way to learn control and direction. It’s when we go on country rides that I enjoy the fruits of my efforts as I put my learnings into practice. I love relating to the horse I ride, and it’s particularly rewarding when he/she is obviously enjoying the experience as much as I am!


There’s a life lesson here. To make things happen, it’s important to set our direction, look ahead to where we want to go, and to be intentional. You can apply this to many spheres, not least our lives as Christians. One of the most determined, motivated New Testament disciples, St Paul, said,

I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3 vs 14)

Paul often talked about Jesus himself being the greatest prize, but it’s clear that he took enormous pride and pleasure in seeing the churches he founded grow to maturity. He certainly was intentional. He lived a life full of danger and adventure, ups and downs, but what strikes me is how much energy he put into the task.

What are my goals? Well, yes, I want to ride a perfect circle. But outside the arena, I have no intention of doing so! Seeing our church grow – in numbers, in spiritual commitment and in service to our community – are very important to me. I look forward to us working this out together with Michelle, our new vicar, in the weeks and months to come.

An important part of being intentional is to translate your goals into a plan. After riding my circles, I usually do a few low jumps. A particular challenge is to ride over two such jumps positioned close together. It’s vital to plot your course carefully so you arrive at the first jump exactly straight, and thus be in position for the second. One week, I didn’t plan my approach properly. On the second jump, my horse and I went in different directions. Ouch – I learned a hard lesson, literally! As an old mentor said to me, to fail to plan is to plan to fail…

The same applies to fettling summerhouses, delivering parcels and – church growth! I look forward to our developing a plan. But here I need to remember something important. Paul, talking to the Corinthians about the way they came to faith and maturity, says,

“I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow.” (1 Cor 3 vs 16)

I believe God longs to share his dreams with us, delights to inspire our planning, and promises to pour out his Holy Spirit to enable us. But ultimately, only he can make things happen, so we don’t end up going around in circles!

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