I can vividly remember two Christmas presents from December 2004. My daughter gave my father a plastic horse. Jennifer turned five right before Christmas that year, and she was determined that she would pick out and purchase a gift for everyone in the family. She didn’t want money or opinions from anyone. It was her year to be a giver. She chose a plastic horse at the dollar store and declared, “This one’s for Grandpa.”
I guess that Christmas was the Year of the Horse, because one of my older children received the movie Seabiscuit. On December 28th, we finished the evening meal and sat down to watch the movie as a family. The phone rang in the middle of our movie night, and I went to the bedroom to listen to the message as it recorded. It was my sister. She was calling to say that our dad had just passed away.
We turned off the movie, and we never went back to finish it. My mother gave Jennifer the plastic horse. “Here. Grandpa would want you to have it,” She said. Jennifer received the horse with a heavy heart.
This summer I am taking a class on social justice through the Paul VI Institute in St. Louis. Today, the instructor showed us a clip of a movie. Mr. Kraus reminded us that our lives mirror the theme of the movie: we have risen from broken lives to discover what we were meant to be – who we are meant to be. Sometimes, we are pretty beat up by the world. We are so screwed up, sometimes, that we have forgotten that we have human dignity. We don’t remember that we are made in the likeness of God. And we fail to realize that our neighbor is God’s special creation as well.
And then he pressed play. The movie was Seabiscuit.
I swallowed hard and permitted the images and lines to wash over me. This was the movie I had refused to watch for nearly a decade. God seemed to say, it’s okay. You’re ready, and you know it.
This amazing line hit me. “I just can’t help feeling they got him so screwed up, running in circles, that he’s forgotten what he was born to do. He just needs to learn how to be a horse again.”
There was a peace in my spirit as I listened. Denise, you are Seabiscuit. The world did its number on you and you got pretty screwed up. God needed to get your attention, and that was painful. But there was an important lesson to be learned in the dying and brokenness. You needed to learn how to be the one I created you to be. You had forgotten who you are.
I was created in the image and likeness of God! There is a dignity there. I am not created for sin or bitterness or confusion or anger or selfishness or exploitation by anybody. I am made to be Christ to the world. To be His mercy. His love. His joy!
I carry the mark of the risen Christ!
But I had forgotten that.
I am an oblation. An offering back to my God. I am a libation. A pouring out of self for another.
In that same scene, Seabiscuit takes off and runs with such beauty and grace and strength that the jockey (Tobey McGuire) yells out, “You are an amazing animal!”
It’s been almost ten years since we paused the movie and began a season of grieving. In time, that grief turned to conversion. And conversion awakened me to my calling.
I remembered how to run with grace.
I can hear my Jockey sometimes. He says, “Okay, let’s see what you’ve got.” And, like Tobey McGuire, He laughs then and throws back His head, shouting with joy. “You are an amazing creation!”
Like Seabiscuit, there is a sweet release in each one of us when we realize that we are being healed. We run faster than we ever believed we could. Isaiah says it best in chapter 61. I proclaim a year of favor from the Lord. This is your vindication by your God. He will give you the oil of gladness. . . a mantle instead of a faint spirit. . . the planting of the Lord to show his glory.
Okay, so let’s see what you’ve got. It’s time to remember who you are. Giddy-up.