The race for the crown
I watched history being made today. For the first time in 37 years, a horse has won the Triple Crown.
I was a freshman in high school the last time it happened, back in 1978 by a horse named Affirmed. Today American Pharoah won the Belmont Stakes, confirming that his wins in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness weren’t flukes, and that you should never judge a horse poorly just because his name was misspelled by his owners.
I don’t know much about horse racing. Except for the Triple Crown races, I don’t follow it. But I observed something while watching the Preakness this year as the horse ran it through sheets of rain on a field of saturated slop.
Here…you can watch it too. Notice the horses as they first come from the gate. Then notice them again as the race finishes, at 2:11.
Did you catch it? When they all sprang out of the gate they were gorgeous, with coats of beautiful colors.
But at the end of the race, only one horse still looked like that. American Pharoah, who had never been out of the first place position, was still a rich brown color. The rest of the field was a nice shade of murky muck, no matter what color their coats actually were. The further back in the field the horse was, the more heavily it was coated in thrown mud.
I’ve thought about that race many times in the few weeks since it took place, that screen shot at 2:11 burned into my mind.
When you’re first, you set precedent. But when you follow in someone else’s footsteps, you can’t help but end up wearing some of the dirt they stirred up in their passing. The field gets worn and messy as more and more folks pass on it.
Scripture talks about generational sin. For many that looks like a cluster of sin habits that pass through the generations as we end up carrying pet sins that are usually failed attempts at coping with the pain of our ancestor’s pet sins. Those who seemed to escape the family pet sin often marry into another family with the same or similar pet sin. It’s like we become magnets for it.
You’ve probably heard phrases like “abused people become abusers” and “hurt people hurt people”. Nobody grows up intending to become an abuser. But when you’ve been abused and you carry the pain caused by the abuse, it often ends up being expressed toward someone else in an abusive manner. It’s the same thing with addictions and extreme relational brokenness. People who are in pain often make terrible choices that cause others pain, and then those others end up making terrible choices that cause others pain, and so on.
The first person in the line of the mess may not have looked so bad. But just wait until time and darkness compound all their issues into their generational line.
The good news is that Jesus can clean up any mess. He never looks at the last straggler in the race and declares him or her too much of a filthy loser to be worth His time and sacrifice. Thanks to Him, we can run a sweaty, difficult, muddy, bloody, messy race and still cross the finish line spotlessly clean.
In fact, He specializes in that very thing.