The miles on the GPS ticked down as we drove. I should have been happy. Fewer miles means closer to home, right? But somehow, the rolling numbers felt like the pull of a rope, slowly tugging my family out of the open pastures of vacation and back into the harness of everyday humdrum. The tether was getting shorter, mile by mile.

I was taking my turn in the passenger seat as we hit the Texas state line and as I looked out the window, I locked eyes with an old oil horse, nose down, tethered to the earth. In that instant flash of vision, I felt the panic of being trapped, of not being able to move.

I felt the panic of being trapped, of not being able to move.

I’ve always had a mixed reaction to oil horses. They are part of my childhood landscape, so there is some nostalgia there. But looking at them now gives me sort of a claustrophobic feeling. There they are tiredly bobbing up and down like so many broken Black Beauties plodding across the Texas plains, their work reaching far beneath the bruised knees of a workhorse and bleeding even the land itself. Some might say I anthropomorphize too much, but so many simple inanimate things call to me of important truths. It’s hard to ignore their cries.

My understanding (or at least “always game”) husband pulled over so I could snap a photo of my tired friend. It was hard to look away, look around, look up. My photo shows only the trapped head of the rig, but panning out, you would have seen the red earth pooled at its feet, the grey sky splashed overhead, the comical faces of curious cows, and the green of the rain-soaked scrub brush.

I wonder if that speaks to your soul as it does to mine? Don’t we all have places where we feel tethered and unable to move? I want to call out to the oil horse, “Look up, look around!” But I know that when tired and tethered, that call feels like a right hook to the jaw.

My old oil horse couldn’t break free, but I think we can.

My old oil horse couldn’t break free, but I think we can. I think in our tethered time, we need an outside look at our lives to see the beauty pooled at our feet and splashed above us. We need someone to snap a photo of the breadth and depth of our lives to help us see the full picture, help us choose to deepen our perspective, maybe even begin to break free instead of remaining head down, tethered to the place, the season, the time that seems it will go on forever.

We need direction into the path of life. We need a nudge into the spaces that allow us to see where God would lead us, what He is inviting us to partner in doing for His world, whether He is going or staying, how we can follow. We need a friend to remind us that in Him is the fullness of joy.

Today, I’m asking a wise friend to listen and speak into my life. I’m reading Psalm 16 and remembering the truth of the path of life and the fullness of joy. And I’m praying that, unlike the oil horse, I will see the way to slip the present tether and enjoy the freedom of redemption.

Amy Knorr is an educator and freelance writer living in Pennsylvania Amish country. She has a passion for speaking and facilitating community learning. She is married to a scientist who makes her laugh, and has two little girls who make her laugh harder. She blogs at One Step to Blue, where this article first appeared.

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How about this for a practice run?