I wrote the following piece a couple of years ago but felt just today an impulse to now set it forth.
I’m not a movie watcher, but I recently watched part of a movie about the legendary racehorse Secretariat. A friend recommended it as a good clean movie children could enjoy. So, child that I am, I decided to check it out. I couldn’t find the whole movie on the Internet, but was able to watch the final portion about Secretariat winning the famous U.S. Triple Crown in which he outstripped the other horses by a country mile. He was so far out in front that it looked like he was the only horse on the track. The further he went the faster he went; he just swallowed the ground before him like the war horse of Job.
That was in 1973, a time when something very wonderful was happening in my own life—O Happy Day—and, with only one thing on my mind, I remember being vaguely puzzled about why, for some reason, everyone was talking about a horse.
Actually I watched a documentary on Secretariat before I found the movie segment. The thoroughbred began to build a reputation for astonishing speed very early, winning a major competition as a two-year-old. Interest outside the usual racing circles grew like a grass fire. Capturing the public sentiment in a single sentence one newspaper said something like, “We are not sure this horse is even human.”
It was while watching the documentary that I had an experience that caught me off guard. I’ll share it with you, but please keep this to yourself—you know how it is; a man in our society is not supposed to have emotions.
Very early in the documentary, as I watched Secretariat run, I began to feel a… you know that feeling in your chest that, when it comes out, it’s only going to be able to come out one way. Not once or twice I was surprised to find myself involuntarily sucking in my breath. Then when Secretariat began to pull so far ahead of the other horses that it seemed his feet were on fire… I… I started to weep.
Why? I couldn’t understand why I was weeping. I was a little embarrassed with myself. You’re weeping over a horse race? How spiritual is that? But I discovered as I watched the documentary further that this was the reaction of many that day. They wept as they watched this horse run. Young people leaning over the rails cried as he flew by. Adults in the grandstand at first were speechless for what they had just seen. When it set in they began to weep.
Why did they weep? Perhaps they knew not; it was a very emotional experience.
One man’s reaction was, “God made this horse.”
Others made similar comments. “It was like the Lord was holding the reins,” reflected Pat Lynch of the New York Racing Association, who was there that day. “Secretariat was one of His creatures, and maybe He whispered to him, ‘Go!’ And that horse really went. It was really almost a supernatural experience. It really was.”
That, I think, is what was filling my own heart with something that only tears could let out—though at the moment I could not put my finger on why. This was something God had done. This was a horse from Heaven. It was God who had made this horse. And… see what God can do, family of man? I cried to see what God can do. Such power, such strength, such excellence… unmatchable victory. Secretariat set records that stand to this day. His times have never been matched—are likely never to be matched, I venture to say. This was a magnificent and beautiful horse with a powerhouse straight from Heaven, with his burnished red coat a horse of fire, like the ones that surrounded Elisha of old.
“It was more than life allows,” one man said.
That, I think, is why people wept. And why I wept. The tears welled up to see such beauty and strength, the sudden reminder that YES… there is Something beyond the prison cell of ordinary life. Here we are in the confines of a life lived without note… and suddenly we see Something out the window of our cell… and the heart is filled with a yearning that can only come out through the eyes.
But then, and just as suddenly, something else overwhelmed me. A cry. Oh for this same spirit to apprehend you and me! Oh, the lethargy, the lassitude, the languor… the low level to which we are bound, the ease with which we accept being nominal, and learn to live with defeat. As in the days of Samuel and Saul we live our lives in fearful timidity with the garrison of the Philistines in our midst. We are used to it now. Defeat. It’s a way of life to us now.
Where is the spirit of Secretariat? Oh, how we need this spirit!
I am reminded of David’s words as he sees the morning sun arising out of the night.
…Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.
Where is that spirit, fellow Christian? I know it’s been a very long and very dark night, but David in prophetic vision sees the sun just pawing the sky to get at this race! Like Secretariat pawing the ground, the muscles of his shoulders rippling like thunder. Like the warhorse of Job. Is he timid, afraid?
He mocks at fear, and is afraid of nothing: neither turns he back from the sword.
The quiver rattles against him, the glittering spear and the shield.
With fierceness and rage he swallows the ground; he cannot stand still at the sound of the trumpet.
When the trumpet sounds, he says ‘Aha!’ He smells the battle from afar, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting (Job 39.19-25, KJV and ESV).
Now, why is this written in our Bible? No offence to the horse lovers out there, but is God really interested in horses? Saith he this not altogether for our sakes?
Yes, for our sakes, who have a conquest to conquer, a race to run! This I know is why I cried. Christian… we have a contest to win, a race to run! Let all smallness and weakness and fear be banished from us. Let us run this race that is set before us like Secretariat! See him rejoicing to run his race? Let us run like that, as Paul the apostle urged, that we may obtain the Prize! “Know ye not,” said Paul, “that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize?” (1 Cor. 9.24). Well, he continues, run like that. Run like the winner runs.
So run (run like that), that ye may obtain (the prize).
This hour is calling for endurance like that. Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of God. Let us lay aside every weight, then, every hindrance, every distraction, the sins that so easily beset us, and run this race! The cloud of witnesses in the heavenly bleachers is cheering and urging us on!
One last thing. When Secretariat died they performed an autopsy on him. You know what they discovered? He had a heart almost three times the size of an average horse. So there it was—the powerhouse that motivated him. His heart!
…Oh, for that heart, Lord Jesus Christ! Deliver us from smallness of heart!
I will run the way of Thy commandments when Thou shalt enlarge my heart (Ps. 119:32).