by Shari McMinn
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. (James 3:1–3 ESV)
During our two decades of homeschooling on our remote northeastern Colorado farm, it was a coveted treat for our children to get to ride horses with dear old Dad, if their schoolwork was well completed for the day. My husband, Cary, was an architect and college professor, but above all, he was a cowboy. We had nearly a dozen horses from which our family members could choose a mount, and we needed that many for everyone to have their own ride.
It takes a while to prepare a horse for riding. First, you have to halter it and bring the sometimes unwilling creature — who definitely outweighs you — in from their corral or pasture further out. After hitching the halter to a post, a specific bridle bit with leather reins attached — which only fits that particular horse — must be carefully put into the horse’s mouth, then the reins tethered to the post. Once the rope halter is removed after the bridle is in-place, a blanket is laid on the horse’s back while the tethered bridle rein controls it. The saddle is placed over the blanket and properly cinched to fit snug. Finally, with one foot in the stirrup (or a hand-up for little cowpokes), the rider mounts the beast to ride. If you go in a group, it takes even more time to prep all the horses to be ready to trail ride together. Horses require bridle bits to be handled and ridden under control. The only shortcut to this rather lengthy process is to forgo all that previously listed preparation, walk out to a pastured horse, and hop on. If you are brave and competent enough to ride bareback without a reined bridle, then you can hold onto the horse’s mane. That is a skill which Native Americans master from a young age, but most western or English riders do not attempt it. (Can you say: Insurance regulations?)
One day, my pre-teen daughter (whose name will not be mentioned) who often broke many family ‘house rules’ on purpose, headed out of the safety of our fenced yard without permission nor telling anyone where she was going. She proceeded to walk a half mile or more out to the grazing pasture end of our 240 acre property, and mounted her favorite paint horse — sans saddle and bridle. Having never attempted it before, she then galloped full speed across our pastures back to the homestead, simply for the sheer fun and freedom of it. Upon her return, she was in trouble, big time! Thankfully, no rattlesnakes were out that day, but she did have a run in with a barbed wire fence. It caused a deep gash, scarring her thigh from then on as a mark of her foolishly riding in cutoff shorts instead of long jeans.
This daughter also had a big problem with lying and foul language. Realizing she, too, needed a ‘bridle’ to help control the sinful words that came out of her mouth, my wise husband made her memorize Psalm 120:2. When he caught her in a lie or cussing, he had her repeat back to him, Deliver me, O Lord, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue.
One day, I had to deal with this daughter’s frustrating behavior while assisting with her morning homeschool reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic assignments (the 3Rs are always a stressor, right?). My tongue became unbridled and I said totally inappropriate, even sinful, things to her, and said them loudly with anger. God was working patience in me, a sinner, as I worked impatiently with my child! The opening James 3 Scripture passage applies not only to Bible teachers, but to homeschool mom teachers as well!
Because we had long taught our children about sin, repentance, and forgiveness, she — along with her siblings within earshot — chimed in with a chorus of “Mom! You are cussing! Repent and ask forgiveness!” Well, they caught me red-faced and tongue-tied. Indeed, I needed a ‘bridle’’ too. I repented, asked for the Lord’s and their forgiveness, then homeschool continued that day and for many years into the future.
Have I gained complete mastery over my tongue? Well, honestly, no. 🙁 But by God’s grace, I have tamed it some. And I have had many opportunities to model humility, confession, and repentance to my children! Ephesians 4:29, 31 admonishes us, Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear … Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.
Thankfully, despite my sins, my children all survived having me as their homeschool teacher, each now graduated into adulthood. I do guard my tongue closely, now more than ever, since I do not want to corrupt a new generation — my adorable grandchildren! Praise the good Lord that Jesus loves us despite our many sins and has given His life to pay the death penalty for us. I think I need to write more and speak less as a way to keep my tongue bridled.
McMinn Family circa 2011