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?

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