Self-Knowledge and Ponies

This essay appears as the Commentary to the March 4th entry in Consuming Fire, the daily devotional version of George MacDonald's Unspoken Sermons.

Originally posted to Flickr as Icelandic Pony
Author: Thomas Quine
Permission: This image, which was originally posted to, was uploaded to Commons using Flickr upload bot on 22:43, 19 March 2009 (UTC) by Kersti Nebelsiek

C.S. Lewis wrote, “The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become – because He made us. He invented us. He invented all the different people that you and I were intended to be.”

My earliest memory is of a pony I called Blackie. I was 3, and she was all mine. I was in the backyard when she came up to me. We were alone. She rubbed her sweet, dirt-wet muzzle into my hand, nudging for food. I ran my hands over her mane, her back, her legs. I remember the smell of her--dusty and grassy and some sweet sort of something that only belongs to ponies. I hugged her neck, and was transported into ecstasy--no longer myself, but something greater, more free and true.

Blackie took over me from me. She overwhelmed me with her pure ponyness and her silky dark hair. With her, I was for the first time perhaps, truly myself. Not the child of so and so, or the person called ‘Diane’; I was a pure being who loved another pure being, and we were the whole world. It was a self-transcendent experience. I lost myself in Blackie and experienced my first sense of independence.

It is part of the continual paradox between the world and the life of God that whatever we generally and at first assume to be true is very nearly always, in actual fact, the exact opposite. So it is with independence and submission. To lose ourselves in God is the ultimate experience of self, the truest sense of being is found there, where we meet perfect love and boundless joy, outside the mind.

The experience of independence inside the self brings misery because the self is always bound by itself, contained by our own limited understanding. Self-transcendence brings true self-knowledge--the freedom to be who we are. Unfortunately, these experiences are not something we can conjure up when we need a shot of true being.

We have to wade through the dull days and endless routines to get to them, and they are fleeting when we do. But it is enough to know they are there, calling to us from the deepest part of ourselves, encouraging us to walk when the road is lonely, cold, and visionless. We have heard part of a secret, touched a pony in the backyard and felt part of a mystery. God takes us from ourselves and gives us back to ourselves, far greater than we once were.