Everybody needs one, everybody should have one – a pasture pony, that is. Now I confess – I had never heard of this particular breed of horse until my sister told me about it. Turns out, pasture pony, is not so much a breed of horse as it is a job description. So when I say that everyone should have a pasture pony, I am speaking metaphorically rather than literally. I am not suggesting that everyone should purchase a pasture and put a pony in it.
But I am suggesting that everyone would benefit from having a metaphorical pasture pony in their life. You see, owners of individual horses purchase a pasture pony to hang out with their horse so their horse won’t be lonely. That’s right, the pasture pony’s job is to provide companionship for the horse that would otherwise be alone. A kind of a rent a friend, if you will. This is necessary because horses are herd animals and they don’t do well living by themselves. Being isolated from their own kind isn’t good for them. Solution – the pasture pony.
The pasture pony’s sole purpose is to provide comfort, community and company for the main horse. All that is required of the pasture pony is their presence. They don’t have to be pretty (or witty or wise). They don’t have to be a fast runner or a good jumper or have a particular pedigree, they just have to be an amiable companion. I don’t even know if they have to be a great conversationalist. Seems like just showing up to share the pasture and pass the time, fulfills the pasture pony’s purpose. The main horse, the one that is the show horse or the race horse or the riding horse, just needs to know that he or she has a friend. They need the assurance that they are not alone in the barn, not alone in the pasture, not alone in this world. (don’t we all need that same assurance?)
Because companionship is so important to the well-being of the main horse, the horse that is considered the important one, the horse that was bought with a purpose in mind, like riding or racing or jumping or showing, owners are willing to go to the additional expense of purchasing a pasture pony for their primary horse. Horses, like humans, were not meant to live in isolation, separated from others of their kind. In Genesis 2:18 we read what God said about this,
“The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’ ”
At that time, Adam was the only human living in the garden God had made. “Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there He put the man He had formed.” (Genesis 2:8)
Adam was surrounded by every kind of living creature imaginable and all manner of natural beauty and every possible plant and flowering tree and fabulous food at his fingertips, but he had no one with whom to share this perfect, beautiful paradise. Yes, you can be lonely, even in a perfect paradise. Adam was. God saw Adam’s sadness and God provided just what He knew Adam needed in order to live his life fully and productively. Adam needed companionship, community and the comfort that comes with having his own kind around him, instead of living by himself.
We were created to live in community with each other and with our Creator, God. That’s why we, like horses, (and other animals) don’t do well in isolation. We are not designed to live alone. If we have forgotten this basic truth, this past year of lockdowns and forced isolation should have sufficed to remind us all of this. Not being able to be with friends and family for an extended period of time has taken an unexpected toll on our human health. People do die of loneliness, literally. Isolated, lonely people become depressed, some die from drug overdoses, suicide, or from lack of a reason to get up in the morning, lack of a reason to take care of themselves. Loneliness watches a person wither away, body and soul, for lack of human contact and interaction.
We need to be connected to something or to someone outside of ourselves. If not, we wither away and die. John 15:5-6 explains connection this way in these words of Jesus,
“I am the Vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.”
Branches need to be connected to the Life Source, the Vine. When a branch is no longer connected to the Vine, it dies. But while connected, the branch is able to bear fruit, be productive and fulfill its purpose. Alone the branch can do none of those things. And as a branch enjoys connection with the Vine, the branch also simultaneously enjoys connection with all the other branches. It is connection that allows the individual life to flourish. We grow in community, we learn in community, we find our purpose as we find our place in community. We cannot find our place or our purpose in isolation. I guess that’s why Hebrews 10:25 gives us this direction,
“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
That must be something the pasture pony does for the main horse, encourage him or her. Earlier I alluded to the horse that was the race horse or the show horse or the riding horse as the one of value. However, it seems to me, there is great value in the pasture pony as well. The pasture pony may be past its prime, not able to be ridden anymore. But its value is in the camaraderie it provides for the other horse. What cost companionship? Who can put a price on the intangibles of friendship and emotional well being of horses or of people? Pasture ponies, though old and past their prime, as it turns out, are indeed priceless.
In these tough times, we could all use a pasture pony, a constant companion. And we need to be a pasture pony for someone else, too. There just may be no higher calling than that of a pasture pony – the calling to be a faithful friend. After all, Jesus said He came to serve, not to be served.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)
sincerely, Grace Day