I learned a significant lesson from my horse Stubby regarding the miracle of change. When we first acquired Stubby he was part of a deal we made in order to acquire another horse. Stubby's owner had been looking for an opportunity to get rid of him. Stubby was a strong willed, stubborn, obnoxious animal that consistently acted up and caused trouble with the other horses. Because of the limited number of horses we had, I usually ended up riding Stubby during our family horse rides. By default he became my horse. I decided to do all I could to help Stubby improve his behavior in spite of his resistance.
I gave Stubbs consequences for bad behavior and rewarded him for good behavior. I rode him side by side our well behaved hoses. I rode him frequently and petted and rubbed him often. Over time, after many horse rides and somewhat to my surprise, Stubby began to soften. He submitted more readily to the saddle and bridle and was less determined to have his own way. He even seemed to enjoy our time together. He allowed me to control him without resisting.
As Stubby's disposition improved, he eventually became my horse of choice. He was energetic and had good stamina. He was not at all hesitant or fearful in challenging situations. He liked to lead out in a group of horses and he didn't need to be urged on. Over a period of 10 to 15 years Stubby developed into an exceptional lead horse, and I was very grateful that I hadn't given up on him during those earlier challenging years. He made such a turn-around that we changed his name to Spinner.
Now when I go to the pasture, Spinner is quick to come to me. He recognizes me and desires to please me. He responds to the gentlest commands and actually sets an example for our other horses. I can ride him easily without a saddle or a bit in his mouth. We have spent many pleasurable hours together. He is very gentle and he has become a favorite horse of our grandchildren. (Picture of Grandchildren on Spinner attached below)
Spinner underwent a major change or transformation, but it took time, patience, and a lot of work. Through this process of change Spinner's life improved immensely, and so did mine! If scriptures applied to horses, I would say that there was a 'mighty change wrought in [him] … that [he had] no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually' (Mosiah 5:2).
In a much more meaningful way, we are admonished to change, to submit ourselves to God, our Master (see James 4:7). As we do, we are blessed. 'For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father' (Mosiah 3:19).
President Ezra Taft Benson (1899-1994) described the blessings that come to us as we submit to God, 'Men and women who turn their lives over to God will discover that He can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace. Whoever will lose his life in the service of God will find eternal life' (December 1988 Ensign, First Presidency Message, “Jesus Christ-Gifts and Expectations”, by President Ezra Taft Benson).
It requires focused daily effort to align our desires with God's desires. Our self-interests can distract us and lure us away from Him. Our personal pride can be a great stumbling block in our progression. It can be difficult to change and we may become discouraged when it takes longer than we would like, but as we submit our will to God, exercise faith in Him, repent of our sins, and do all we can to change, we can be blessed through the power of Jesus Christ and His Atonement. We can change and progress. We can find peace, happiness, and success in life.
Jesus Christ was the perfect example of submitting His will to the Father's. His only desire in life was to fulfill God's plan. God's will was His will. God's work was His work. They were one. Even when faced with making the ultimate sacrifice, Jesus submitted His will to His Father saying,'...not my will, but thine, be done' (Luke 22:42).
May we yield our hearts to God, love Him with all of our heart, soul, and mind, and receive the associated blessings. May we remember that changing our habits and our nature may take more time than we would like, but it can happen if we persevere and endure. With God's help and through the power of Jesus Christ and His Atonement, we can become all that He desires us to become. We can indeed change and progress (see Philippians 4:13).