Pat Day didn't want to be a jockey, but God sure made him one. He had aspirations of being a champion bull rider, but kept getting thrown off, time and time again. He climbed into the saddle, becoming the most reluctant horse jockey, and found he was good at it. Really good. So he kept at it, and he started winning races. Living near Louisville, I recently had the pleasure of hearing Pat speak, and what a testimony he shared, complete with a lesson for the writer in all of us...
Growing up in Colorado, Pat was hired as a teenager by a family who'd moved from Texas. Known as Bible thumpers and "Jesus freaks," they demonstrated a rare, gentle compassion. The lady of the house eventually began telling him about the Lord, hauling out her flannel graph board. Praying no one would find out, Pat sat and half-listened. One afternoon, he prayed the sinner's prayer, as much to satisfy this kind Christian woman as much as anything else.
Becoming one of the most winning jockeys on the racing circuit in the early 1980s, Pat won a major event in New York. When legendary sportscaster Jim McKay interviewed him on live television, Pat remembers saying, "I did it! I did it!" He didn't thank the owner, the trainer or the horse. He claimed the victory for himself. To this "Day," it is one of his deepest, most cringe-inducing regrets.
Not long after, lying in the dark of his hotel room, Pat turned on the television and listened to the program of a well-known televangelist. He listened to the words of Christ's sacrifice for our sins, and drank in the words of grace, redemption and forgiveness. Lost in a haze of booze and drugs, it was only then that he remembered praying at the kitchen table with the loving Christian woman in Colorado all those years before. It was also on that night that Pat realized his personal need for the Savior to save him from himself. Pat Day may be diminutive in size, but he is certainly statuesque in the eyes of our loving Father.
How many of us writers, like Pat, have a goal in mind, only to be thrown out of the saddle, again and again. It's all in how we react that makes the difference. We can stay on the ground, wallowing in our misfortune and misery, or we can stand up, dust off the seat of our pants, and get back in the saddle! Contest scores, critiques and rejections can be humbling, but they prove how hardy we are. The Lord has gifted us with words. Let's use them wisely. And when we reach a goal, no matter how small, or how significant, let's give the glory to the greatest Creator of all.