The Consequences of Forgiving Horse Thieves – Guest Post by Jake Shue

by Kevin on February 22, 2012

In the Old West folks would take horse thieves and hang ‘em from a high tree. That just wasn’t tolerated! It was low to take a man’s horse, to leave him afoot, which was akin to leaving him for dead. It was, and still is, deep within a cowboy’s heart and mind that someone who steals cattle and horses is among the lowest of the low, and should be dealt with in a way that the thief either is not willing to steal again, or cannot steal again, if you know what I mean.

Well, let me tell you a modern-day story of horse stealing and how the Big Boss taught me a lesson on forgiveness when I was a young cowboy.

I was sixteen years old and had a little, athletic sorrel gelding named May Day. Over his lifetime he packed elk out of the mountains, worked cattle pretty well and would last all day when my Dad told me to go look for strays. Dad started him as a two-year old and I took over when he was three. I was ten. By the way, the county in South Central Colorado where I grew up was rumored to still have stealing horses as a hanging offense in the books. I don’t know if this is true or not, but we all spoke like it was, and it makes for a good story.

One Sunday morning we got a call that two boys were missing from the boys’ ranch where my Dad worked (also a working ranch operation) and two horses were missing; mine and a good mare named Skeeter. This was the only Sunday I recall my Dad letting me miss church, other than being sick. I got on my dirt bike and I was hunting those boys and I was wanting a piece of their hide, and I wanted it bad! I was having violent fantasies of what I was going to do to them when I caught up with them. I rode all over the countryside, county roads, and stopped only to talk to ranchers and farmers to find if they had seen anything or not. Nothing! My Dad and many others were looking too, but the boys and horses had disappeared.

Finally, my father asked a friend who had a crop duster airplane, if they could get up in the air to take a look. They did, and they found the horses fifteen miles away, grazing in a wheat field. My horse was fine, but the mare was lame for two weeks afterward.

I was glad to have my horse back, but I still wanted some hide. Several days later my chance came. The two Horse Thieves were brought back to the boys’ ranch after a short stint in jail, to continue their treatment of trying to overcome their past and become good citizens in the future.

My Dad, the staff and the other boys were in a group session confronting and holding accountable the Horse Thieves. I rode up on my big, dirt bike and revved the engine before I turned it off. I wanted them to know I was coming! I walked slowly up to the dormitory and when I walked into the mud room I had an experience that changed my life dramatically.

Now, you may be skeptical of what I am about to tell you, but I can remember it like it was yesterday, even though it happened 30 years ago. And you know what, I know it changed me. I went from being so mad I could chew nails and spit out rivets to …well I’m getting a head of myself.

As I entered the mud room it was as if something, or rather Some One, stopped me and washed me from the top of my head out through my feet, but from the inside, not the outside. I was stopped in my tracks and the anger and thoughts of revenge were gone in an instant. When I gained my composure, I entered into the larger room where the Horse Thieves and all the other people were.

Some of the boys were hoping for a fight. Others weren’t sure what was gonna happen. I waited until it was my turn to talk and I told the Horse Thieves this:

“I came with the intention of kicking your tails…., but I forgive you”. The one who rode the mare just scoffed, but the one who stole my horse broke down and wept. I don’t know what has happened in life to the boy who stole my horse, but the other one has recently been on CNN, along with his brother, featured as sibling, career criminals. Crazy!

By the way, I had that horse for twenty-five years and he never did colic or was ever lame in his life, was in wrecks and almost killed by a stud. There are many more stories about him, but I’ll save them for the future.

As for me, I learned a lesson in forgiveness and that revenge is for God, not man. He knows best anyway. Yes, it might have felt good to beat the tar out of those boys, but when the Lord, Almighty washed the anger and revenge from me I felt like a brand spanking new person. In actuality, I was.

 “If you look the other way when people do you wrong (steal your horse), the Boss will do the same. But if you hold grudges against your fellow cowboys, the Boss will treat you the same way” (Matthew 6:14-15, Simplified Cowboy Version).

“Don’t get even when someone does you wrong, like steal your horse; that’s not the way to handle things. ‘I’ll be the Judge’, the Boss says, ‘I’ll take care of it and don‘t you worry about it ’” (Romans 12:19, Simplified Cowboy Version–JKS).

Photo by duron123

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