Behind the Gate

Santa Anita Horse Racing
Behind the Gate

Nostrils flare, eyes bug, while clouds of dust rise from impatient hooves. The feisty thoroughbred bends her regal head in a failed attempt to nudge the gate open. Her hot-blooded demeanor quiets as the Jockey calmly holds her reins and whispers gentle encouragement.

The bell rings. The gate lifts. And she shoots out like a pent-up cannon ball. Her spirited gait promises bold results. Her agile movements belie powerful muscles, honed to skilled perfection. At the right moment, and at the Jockey’s urge, she extends her stride in the home stretch. Her eyes fixate on the finish line before her, ears attuned to her Master’s call, and the two blend into one. Her nose touches invisible tape.

This paints an image of the Christian writer’s life. Like thoroughbreds, we are designed to run the race set before us.

But sometimes, our impatience grows as we wait behind the gate to run our God-ordained course. We assume we’re ready, yet our Trainer holds the gate’s release until our maturity is complete.

Training Thoroughbred Horses, by Preston M. Burch, offers tips that mirror undeniable patterns in the way God trains us for Christian writing.

  • Burch said, “Owners set thoroughbreds apart, before birth, to be racers. Carefully crafted breeding is designed to create a winning horse.” Just as horse owners carefully consider which mare and stud to breed, our Creator planned our DNA with qualities uniquely designed to make us writers.
  • “Successful training of any thoroughbred starts with a quiet lead pony that walks in front of the young yearling as they circle round and round.” We need wise influence. The Lord sends mentors who walk in front of us. Often, we must circle back to a place visited before. In hindsight, we see the need to round similar circumstances, until walking in God’s direction becomes second nature.

    Horse Training Round and Round
    You Must Circle Round and Round
  • “After they learn to follow quietly as a good follower, then they are allowed to trot.” Our enthusiasm often makes the pre-requisite to follow first easy to miss.
  • “Proof of advancement comes with ability to figure-eight trot by the pressure of reins on the neck, versus the pull of a bit on their mouth.” Pressure creates character. First, by the surprise grind of teeth against metal when someone tells us our words run rampant. Over time, we learn to respond to a gentle tug on the neck — where it takes less pressure to generate a pattern of grace, diversity, and style in our sentences.
  • “Once bridle-wise training is accomplished, next comes jogging, and then cantering. The horse continues to be accompanied by the pony to this point. By this time they should be fit and well-behaved.” Here, our writing muscles are small, but growing. Diversity improves with practice, but like the thoroughbred, we still need guiding influence.
  • “If you try to hurry them onto the track before they know what the bridle is for, they are hard to control and will easily hurt themselves, another horse, or a boy.” Our desire to race can drive us to foolishness. Believing we are ready too soon, we break for the track. In our uncontrolled urge to publish, we can hurt ourselves and others.
Jockey Encouragement
And You’re Off

You and I are God’s thoroughbreds. Jesus is our Trainer, and the Holy Spirit is our Jockey. Waiting behind the gate is hard, but with perseverance the day will come for us to run the track laid out especially for us.

When we are fully prepared, the gate will lift. The crowd will roar. The air will surge with electricity. The bell will ring. And then…you’re off!

Are you waiting for a gate removal so you can launch?

15 Replies to “Behind the Gate”

  1. I’m not competitive (only with myself!), nor am I a horse enthusiast but this is a wonderful analogy of the writing life. Encouraging and uplifting. Thanks for jump-starting my day.

  2. I am ready, and chomping at the bit! What a great comparison, Anita. There is a freeing feeling to being who God meant me to be, so I am trotting along at this point, just being faithful. Thanks for sharing…

    1. Ecclesiastes, what a beautiful book. One of my favorite reminders, “It is better not to make a vow, than to make one and not fulfill it. (5:5)

      As writers, we are often tempted to give up, but as you noted, in the right season, God will set us on our course. Many blessings!

  3. Mine was a 10-year wait, but when God opened the door, it was worth it. Yes, the moment was right and He tied it with a bow, giving it to me at the ACFW conference where over 700 of my friends could celebrate with me. Writers need to stay the course. Be persistent.

    1. What a great story, Ane! And congrats on your achievement. Isn’t it just like our wonderful Father to give us more than we could possibly think to ask. What a gift when he allowed you to celebrate with 700 friends. Persistence is key, and so is hope!

  4. I’m still waiting behind the gate running figure eights with a horsey-type historical novel, so this is timely. Thank you, Anita. This post is particularly encouraging right now. I know God planned beforehand the works he has planned for me to do. I am his poem, his workmanship. I know this. But reminders at just the right moment are like medicine for the weary heart.

    1. Your comment brings tears to my eyes, Melinda. I too received medicine at just the right moment, while training and waiting. (Psalm 37:3-4)

      He HAS planned the work for you, and promises to do you good and not harm. Keep following, keep circling, and keep listening for the Holy Spirit’s encouragement. You will grow stronger and more confident in running your race. He’s laying the track — one designed for you alone!

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