And they're off! Out of the gate, the beautiful Thoroughbreds seemed evenly matched and mounted. A wave of chestnut, grey, sorrel and bay on the bottom and fuchsia, teal, green and yellow on top blurred past the grandstands. For three bends of the track they stayed tightly packed, but on that final turn, endurance and expertise separated the winners to the front and to the finish. In a little over a minute, victory won and a day's work completed.
A trip to Lexington, KY, demands viewing a good horse race at Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby. The runners we watched weren't Triple Crown contenders, but they were just as fun to cheer as any Cigar or Man O War. With no money wagered, I had nothing to lose. But I still analyzed the gorgeous creatures in the paddock and picked my favorites, then hooped and hollered them into the winner's circle.
Having never been to Churchill Downs, I was tickled to see how close I could get to the contenders prior to their run. Each equine beauty passed within a few feet of where I stood behind the rail circling the staging area. The race analyst talked about each entry's track record, their breeding and age. She predicted who would run well on this grassy track and who would falter.
While she methodically itemized odds and numbers that meant nothing to me, I sized up the potential winner an entirely different way. I looked into their eyes, observed their eagerness or complacency. I noted how they walked in soundness and also with attitude. While others may have been doing the math in their heads, I was looking for the horse's heart and spirit. I backed the one that looked and acted like a winner. My pick, Number 9, did not disappoint. The glistening, stately sorrel crossed the finish ahead and alone with grace and glory!
I want to be like him! Not for the wins down here that are just as fleeting as the high-speed performance in a race that last a minute and the post-win celebration only a smidgen longer. I want to be like Him! Not to please a fickle audience that instantly forgets the hard-earned notoriety and is instantly consumed with the next line-up as the present winner heads back to the stable to eat hay in anonymity.
I want to be like the winner not for the photos and pats on the back or the cool splash of water over his head and the circle of doting investors. I want to be like him for his heart – to be the one who separates himself from the pack and clearly shows his colors. I want to be like the winner who visibly demonstrates a determined spirit. I want to be like the winner who gives it everything to the finish. I want to be like the winner who thinks clearly, strategically out-maneuvering the opposition. I want to be a winning Christian who looks for heaven and never looks back!
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1-3)
In this life-long race, made of millions of furlongs, Lord give me a sound mind, a fierce spirit, and an eye fixed on the finish! Help me run the race with grace and enter in to glory! If I can fly like these amazing steeds across the heavens at my end, I'll be victorious and blessed. Whether I wear a wreath of roses or a diamond filled crown, what a thrill it will be to lay them at the feet of Jesus when my race is run.