Every Friday I take my client walking along the Green Belt because it’s part of his therapy, and lately we’ve had beautiful spring weather that has made each outing satisfying and liberating. On one side of the path is the river and on the other, for a stretch, are numerous horse stables. I wait all week long to walk with my client by those stables. It is one of the best experiences I encounter in my workweek. Because I identify with those horses, all waiting to do what is asked of them without complaining.
The horses, I believe, are race horses used at the race track, which I can see from a little farther down the path. The race track is large and the stadium holds maybe like five thousand fans, give or take a few. These horses are quiet and uncontested in their stalls, and all of them are waiting patiently for their moment to burst forward toward an untethered end. These horses have been mastered, all of them, by a trainer who knows them better than they know themselves, who loves and believes in them and wants them to win. In every race, all but one lose.
I am in a race, as Paul writes in Hebrews 12. I am racing because I have been mastered, and I am not my own. My Trainer knows me better than I know myself. He knows the track ahead, how it bends in a new way to me every time it bends, how it shapes me into a path that is not where I had intended to go; yet my Trainer built me for this track; He built me for this race. He built me not to win but to lose.
I am the kind of horse who has been crucified with Christ and my body and life are not meant for the world and its victory. A world that butchers the lame has its own kind of victory that feels very much like a victory built into itself and it feels full and gloating and fattened with deceptive words that fattens everything around it so all of it, in the end, is butchered.
My King knows what it means to be butchered. He knows what it’s like to be a horse trained by His Trainer and raised up for the one purpose to run the race not to win, but to lose. His Trainer must’ve taken Him on the utmost circuitous test and He passed, He passed them all. He rounded every corner perfectly, just as His Trainer taught Him. He ran just as He was asked. He did everything that a horse needs to do to win the race. Far ahead … far ahead … He outdistanced us all as we became tangled and tripped up by deceptive curves. Far ahead … far, far ahead … He outdistanced us all …
Jesus ran the race that is the loss, and the victory, merged into one. God asked Him to die for us — to lose, for us. Our pure, thoroughly-bred God, was asked to die. The perfect moment of human choice was given Him to live or die. And because He loved His Father, because He loved His training, He chose to be butchered, just like a worthless horse who is good only to be slaughtered.
Jesus is so good that His Fatherhad to slaughter Him, because He wouldn’t fit any other way in this world.
I’ll take the loss.