“Listen to counsel and accept discipline, that you may be wise the rest of your days.” (Proverbs 19:20)

Do you have a friend or family member who is loving, wise, and faithful enough to come alongside and speak truth into your life (even when it’s uncomfortable for you both)?

If so, you are blessed to have what I think of as a “cowpony” person in your life. And if you don’t? You’ll hopefully find one, because:

Everybody needs a cowpony.

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Before getting into why this is, a disclaimer:  This blog isn’t intended to put humans on a parallel with animals nor slight all the wonderful non-cowpony horse types out there (which I happen to really like).

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Cowponies aren’t actually ponies, but horses well-suited to working with livestock (principally cattle). They are characterized by agility and intelligence, with an ability to powerfully sprint and “turn on a dime.” A good cowpony has what is called “cow sense”, instinctively knowing how to separate and/or direct the movement of cattle wherever its rider desires with little to no guidance. Range cattle, in particular, benefit from the quiet, calming influence of a good cow horse as a rancher cares for herds utilizing low-stress stockmanship and stewardship practices.

Although such horses can be found beautifully trimmed and gleaming during competitions, many rangeland cowponies are no strangers to mud flecks, untrimmed whiskers, dust, nicks, and cockleburs lodging in their tails. For these, the beauty is often more in what they do than how they look.

We could say these are the ranchers’ trustworthy partners.

They are helpful in checking herd conditions.

They fulfill the task of separating out cows or calves in need of extra care.

They intuitively know when to speedily cut off a cow’s escape or stand nearby, unperturbed.

Proverbs 19:20 exhorts us to listen to counsel and accept discipline, and for good reason: that we may be wise the rest of our days. Each of us, from time to time, have need of counsel or find ourselves out of spiritual alignment with God—requiring stronger intervention. (Proverbs 3:12)

This is where our faithful “cowpony” friends or family come in… if we let them.

While our source of counsel and understanding of discipline should derive from God and His Word (the Bible), He also encourages us to receive assistance from others—counsel which aligns with His Word and provides us with corrective exhortations or measures. In fact, these individuals work with God on our behalf much like a good cow horse carries out the desires of its rider. We see God’s championing of such friends in Proverbs 27:9:

“Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.” (ESV)

In like manner, Proverbs 27:5-6 instructs, “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”

Our life’s “cowponies” are those imperfect, every-day people who love us enough to try and cut us off at the pass when we’re heading off in a wrong direction. They are the individuals who seek to kindly share a gem of Scripture for us to ponder after noticing one or more signs of spiritual ill health in us. They may humbly give us warnings we don’t necessarily want to hear or lovingly administer a dose of truth we find annoying.

They’re willing to get splashed by a little of our mud.

They ignore the cockleburs and inconveniences which often come with loving us.

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If you’re fortunate enough to have such a person in your life, I encourage you to let him or her know you are grateful for them. They take significant risks on your behalf and may sometimes wonder whether it makes sense to continue. Consider soliciting their input. And, of course, thank the Lord for the gift He has given you in that individual.

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And now, a question: Do you have a “cowpony” in your circle of friends or family who you’ve been prohibiting from serving in this meaningful capacity?

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Perhaps you’ve hoped for more of a “show pony” relationship with someone without understanding God’s intentionality in designing them to be a cowpony.

Although many show ponies or horses are also highly intelligent and athletic, they often have differing regimens than those of the working cow horse. When ridden into the arena, much of it is about show. The horses are immaculately groomed, trimmed, and often sport lavish tack and eloquently dressed riders who look as if they’re perfect. The arena environment is strictly controlled as horse and rider pairs show or demonstrate seemingly flawless teamwork through a variety of disciplines.

While I love watching an excellent field of competitors at horse shows, I find some people want neat and tightly controlled friendships—where unwritten rules for engagement run along the lines of: “Tell me I’m in the right or doing great, but don’t go anywhere else with me.”

These are relationships in which Proverbs 19:20 type interactions are stonewalled.

When this occurs, disappointment and resentment erodes the health of what could otherwise be a mutually beneficial relationship.

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Going forward, please consider:

How can I tell who might be a “biblical cowpony” type?  There will be people in our lives offering counsel which is grounded in self-centeredness, ignorance, a desire to manipulate, or a well-intentioned zeal which is bereft of wisdom. They aren’t cowponies, but meddlers. We should watch instead for friends or family members who are loving and secure in their relationship with Jesus Christ and habitually treat us with respect and kindness. A biblical cowpony type will know Scripture, wisely apply it to themselves and situations we may be facing, and cannot bear to see another person groping in spiritual darkness. They will exhibit the fruit of the Spirit (listed in Galatians 5:22-23) and work to engage us in conversation to unearth how we’re really doing. They suffer pain if we appear content to stay in the mire of anything which is keeping us from knowing joy and intimacy with the Lord.

If I’ve been resentful towards any cowponies God has allowed in my life, what should I do?  First, know you aren’t alone. We should then choose to be in awe of God’s immense love for us! Not only has He blessed us with sacrificing, imperfect cowpony types to help us gain wisdom, but is now gifting us with an awareness that we’ve perhaps misunderstood the way in which He created them—in part, for our benefit.   Devouring the Bible, humbling ourselves before the Lord, and looking at those cowpony type friends or family members through different eyes will change us. Of course, we should also make Proverbs 19:20 our own: Listen to counsel and accept discipline, that you may be wise the rest of your days.

What might I need to know and remember if I’m a cowpony type? Ahhh, yes! Us cowpony types need to humble ourselves before the Lord and, guess what? Listen to counsel and accept discipline, that we may be wise the rest of our days! Every cowpony type needs his or her own cowpony, meaning we should pay attention to the previous two questions. We must ask God for an unfeigned love for others and that He grant us patience and discernment.  All of us, as believers, should conduct frequent self-evaluations to see whether the fruit of the Spirit (listed in Galatians 5:22-23) describes us; if it doesn’t, it means we aren’t abiding in Christ and will not be working under His direction.  When this happens, we aren’t facilitating movement in our God-given cowpony capacity, but as self-driven meddlers. Knowing and practicing Christ’s teaching in Matthew 7:1-5 is essential for us, as it’s generally easier to notice someone else’s blind spots than our own. And we should never forget we have much to learn from God and those we seek to serve.

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If you have a cowpony, praise God.

If you don’t have one, ask Him to send you one and be on the lookout.

If you are a cowpony, don’t grow weary in well doing.

Because everybody really does need a cowpony.

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Thank you for “clippity-cloppiting” down the trial with us today—you are so loved!



People Lover. Author. Blogger. Speaker. Forgiven Much & Wild About God. Learn about June's latest book on her website.

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