What does it mean to "put the cart before the horse"? Okay. It isn't really that hard. It is a comment about doing things in the wrong order. But we are becoming so far removed from a time when people used carts and horses that the phrase is nothing more than a cliche. We really have to think about the phrase before it begins to dawn on us just how absurd it is. Stop for a moment, though, and think it through. A cart is a fairly simple machine. Usually it is a contraption with two wheels on a single axle. It is useful for carrying a load, but it has no power by itself. It cannot balance by itself. It cannot steer itself. It is dependent upon someone or something else to provide power and balance and direction. A horse can fill all of these needs, but only if it leads. If the cart comes before the horse, the cart will be level. It can hold the load and it can move, but the direction will be out of control. If the direction is out of control, adding power will useless, but only if we are lucky. If we are not so lucky, it will be harmful and destructive.
Being far removed from an old saying introduces another danger, too. Besides missing the meaning of the phrase, we can also fail to see how to avoid the problem that it is talking about. How many of us really know how to hook up a cart to a horse? The concept is simple enough, but what about the details? Where are the instructions? Where are the buckles and harnesses? If we tried, would we get it right? What are the chances that we would do something backwards in the process? To hook up a cart and get it right consistently, we have to learn the right way to do it, and then follow that pattern consistently. When we try to do something that we are not accustomed to, we are more prone to make mistakes. We are probably going to do something wrong.
In this devotion, Morley shares his perspective on the story of the Transfiguration. In Matthew 17, the Gospel writer relates the story of Christ ascending a mountain with Peter, James, and John. While there, Christ was transfigured so that his face and even his clothing shone brightly. Moses and Elijah appeared and spoke with him. Peter offered to build shelters for them, but a voice from the clouds interrupted Peter and told him to listen to Christ. Morley points out that Peter's problem was not his desire to do something good. Peter's problem was trying to decide what was good without getting directions from God. A "good idea" may not be the right idea.
How can we know whether good ideas are right? Morley hits the nail on the head. We have to pray. More to the point, we have to pray first. Don't put the cart before the horse. Don't get things out of order. We have to talk with God first. In the middle of our excitement, we need God's direction first. In the middle of our despair, we need God's direction first. In the middle of life, we need God's direction first.
To make sure that we get our lives in the right order, we have to learn the right way and then apply it consistently. We have to learn to pray first and do it consistently. We have to learn to listen for God's answer and do it consistently. We have to learn to act on God's Word and do it consistently. Then, and only then, can we hope to understand the difference between "good ideas" and God's ideas.
Dear Lord, take me to the mountain like Peter. Fill me with the wonder and awe and excitement that Peter must have felt at the Transfiguration. And when you reveal your wonders to me, Lord, give me the wisdom, or at least the horse sense, to listen to you and seek your will first. Amen.
Grace and peace--