“Hold on, Aubrey! Hold on!”
“Woahhhh, woah, woah, woah”
“Aubrey, hold on!”
Moments before this exchange, I was enjoying walking behind two of my nieces on horseback, led by my then-landlord. Now, I’m sprinting through the woods, dazed from jet-lag, screaming for my niece not to let go of the reins, praying I won’t find her knocked unconscious by a low-hanging limb on the wooded trail.
I can’t see the horse anymore. I actually can’t even see the trail anymore. And what’s worse–I don’t hear screaming anymore.
I go through the woods in the general direction of the barn, hoping and praying that’s where Sunny has taken Aubrey.
I get to the clearing on top of the hill where I see the Big House, and in a few steps, I see the barn. In a few more steps, I see an eight-year-old girl in a pink shirt saddled on a horse that just ran wild, and I breathe an enormous sigh of relief. I slow my sprint to a jog because for the past six weeks, I’ve been in a dry climate, and being back in this 90-degree heat with 85% humidity ain’t no joke.
I make it to Aubrey, unsure of what to say, but I have to laugh a little because she’s ok and because there’s a twig sticking straight out of her ponytail. “Am I bleeding?” she asks. Distracted by her hair, I say, “No, you’re fine. How did you hold on??” She shrugs and tells me how fast Sunny went and how her feet came out of the stirrups, and how she tried and tried and tried to stop Sunny, but he wouldn’t listen. I’m still in shock and am trying not to pass out because now I see that she is, in fact, scratched and bleeding all up and down her throat, and for a split-second, I imagine how bad this could’ve been.
We’re both a sweaty mess, so I suggest we go inside and get some water. She dismounts like a pro, and all I want to do is scoop her up and tote her on my hip like I used to, but I’m too weak, and she doesn’t need that anymore.
A few minutes later, my landlord comes down the hill with my other niece, and after he tells Aubrey he’s sorry and he’s proud of her, she demands to know why Sunny did that. My landlord explains that he probably heard the other horses back at the barn, and he just wanted to be back with them. That answer doesn’t satisfy her, so she keeps asking questions. She has clearly taken this personally, and the question she can’t seem to articulate is: “How could someone I love and trust do this to me?”
We’ve all felt like Aubrey that day. We don’t understand how someone close to us could drag us on a journey that we have no interest in taking, much less one that’s dangerous for us. We can’t fathom that they’d be so insensitive and unaware of the ways their actions are affecting us. We’re hurt that they ignore our pleas for them to stop. And we’re shaken by the intensity we’ve seen.
Just because we’ve felt like Aubrey from time to time, though, doesn’t mean we haven’t acted like Sunny. How many times have we let our selfishness drag others along for something they didn’t sign up for, no matter the cost? How many times have we neglected someone’s feelings when we know our actions affect them? Or if we’re more passive, how many times have we let our inaction devastate those we love most?
What I’m about to suggest may sound like I’m encouraging people-pleasing, but that’s not the case. I’m not suggesting we base our decisions solely on what will be best for others or that we avoid doing what’s right simply because it may upset someone. What I am suggesting is that we start acknowledging how much we negatively affect others when we let selfishness drive us.
Sometimes I’m tempted to believe that this only applies to people with families of their own. Of course your actions are going to affect your spouse and your children. But as a single person, I’ve got plenty of people close to me too who, if I’m not careful, I can hurt badly. And as a human being living on planet Earth, I’ve got 7.5 billion who could eventually be affected through the ripple effect–not to mention generation after generation to come.
So as we go about our days, let’s not act like Sunny. Let’s not allow selfishness to take the reins, and let’s not be so dead-set on accomplishing our own agendas that we’re tone-deaf to those on the journey with us. Instead, let’s “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit” (Philippians 2:3). Let’s have the same mindset as Jesus and be about our Father’s business (Philippians 2:5; Luke 2:49).