My beloved and I make it a point to watch the Kentucky Derby every year. When the ponies go into the starting gate, we are front and center holding our breath for the mile and a quarter race.
Before the Derby, we each make our choices for the winner. We don’t bet any money, but just want to guess it right. He always picks a gray horse, while I ponder the names. This year, I chose Summer is Tomorrow and Smile Happy.
The pre-race commentaries labored on.
There was mention of an unknown horse by the name of Rich Strike. Apparently, he had been added to the roster a few minutes before the deadline on Friday night. He hadn’t won anything significant. His odds were 80-1.
Mike Smith was hoping to make history as the oldest jockey to win the Derby. Though he was riding Taiba, we were rooting for him, too. Any guy who could fold himself up on a horse like Mike at age 56 had our votes.
The horses went into the starting gate, and before we could say “lickety split,” they were off. We yelled like we were there. Summer is Tomorrow took the lead and then I couldn’t tell. They were all bunched together.
Suddenly, a horse burst through the middle of the pack and sailed to a glorious finish. “It’s Mike Smith!” my beloved cheered, and we clapped our hands. But then we realized it WASN’T Mike Smith and the fastest horse was not Taiba. The winner of the 2022 Kentucky Derby was Rich Strike! We literally jumped for joy. What a win! An unknown. A last minute add-in. A horse with 80-1 odds. It. Was. Awesome.
Underdog Rich Strike reminds me of a story that happened thousands of years ago where all the topliners were assembled, and someone was brought in at the last minute.
In Samuel 16, Jesse lined up his prized sons. The tall one. The smart one. The strong one. Out of this fine selection of men would come the next king. The prophet stood before each one. None were chosen. God told Samuel, “People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
There was one more son, out in the field, keeping the sheep. It was the biggest event for the town and the family, yet they hadn’t even deemed him worthy enough to come into the house. He was too young to consider. He hadn’t had any victories or slain any giants. Yet. Now, suddenly, he was called to join the group. He would also be a contender, though no one thought he had a chance.
God knew what was inside the young man. When others would have counted him out, God had a plan for his life exceeding everyone’s expectations. Samuel announced, “This is the one.” And he was. That young man, David, would go on to be a giant slayer and the king of Israel.
On Friday, Rich Strike wasn’t going to be included in the race and then suddenly on Saturday, he was lining up with the rest of the award winning three-year-olds. The odds were against him.
If you are feeling like an underdog, take heart. That’s when the story is the best! The Bible is filled with stories of God using unlikelies: fishermen, farmers, shepherds. He can even use a donkey (Numbers 22)! Sometimes I have been that donkey.
I guess you just can’t judge a horse by its cover.
Dawn Reed is a pastor's wife and newspaper columnist. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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