Theme: The God of the Second ChanceInsights:
"You don't throw a life away just because he is banged up a little."
The movie, Seabiscuit, is based on a true story, a story written long before the horse Seabiscuit was ever born. Seabiscuit's story is the eternal story of God's redeeming love. Perhaps that explains why the audience bursts forth in applause when Seabiscuit overcomes War Admiral, and also when he wins the last race with John Pollard. We all love the story of the lowly and broken being restored and claiming victory. We love the story because we want it to be our story.
The opening scenes of Seabiscuit are set in a mythical West - a land of freedom and unsurpassed beauty. We are introduced to three men each at home in their own private paradise. Charles Howard, a father who seizes opportunity and sets about creating his own Eden. Tom Smith, a man of the spirit, who lives in union with the vast open spaces and the horses that make their home there. John Pollard, a beloved son who is at home in his father's world of beauty, poetry, and grace.
Simone Weil says that there are two things that pierce the human heart: beauty and affliction. If we did not recognize the beauty in these opening scenes, it is only because we have lived for so long in the affliction. The "Crash" is a metaphor for the Fall (Genesis 3). What touches the heart so profoundly in these scenes are the images of Eden lost.
A father loses his only son to death, which brings separation and divorce from his wife.
The man of spirit, who lives in open space taking care of God's creatures, is confined to a railroad car separated from everything he loves.
The beloved son becomes an orphan, separated forever from his father's love. His only inheritance is a bag of poetry books and the memory of the family and the home he lost. He scrambles to survive under a cruel taskmaster. The name change is significant; he goes from John1, "the beloved", to Red, "the angry".
Where do those forced out of Eden go? (Genesis 4:16) To places like Tijuana, Mexico where alcohol, sex, and gambling numb the pain of their lost and broken souls. Surprisingly, it is in this very place that the God of all comfort (II Corinthians 1:3-4) can be found. In His love, He is there to offer a second chance (John 3:16).
The Second Chance
Charles Howard gets a second chance through the love of Marcela. She is a woman of faith who sees and understands his broken heart. She introduces him to life (getting back on a horse) - a giant shift from automobiles and the pursuit of making money.
Tom Smith gets a second chance through the faith of the Howards. They don't judge him by his external circumstances, but instead they see a heart that will spend his last five dollars to save a broken horse.
Together these three personifications, of faith - Tom Smith, of hope - Charles Howard, and of love - Marcela, will work together to give Seabiscuit and Red Pollard their second chance.
When Tom Smith comes across Seabiscuit and Red Pollard in Saratoga, they are both at their lowest points. The filmmakers go to great extent to make the comparison between Seabiscuit and Pollard. Broken, wounded, angry losers, they seem incorrigible to everyone except Tom Smith. Looking in their eyes, he sees something of their original beauty, something worth redeeming. What he says of Seabiscuit could be said of Pollard, "He's so beat up, it's hard to tell what he's like.... so screwed up running in a circle.... forgotten what he's to do.... he needs to learn how to be a horse (son) again." The first step is to break the circle and let them ride free.
No Longer Alone
Back at the Howard's ranch, the locks come off the barn, the machines come out, and life goes back into the stables. The son's room is still empty, but there is a light on in the barn, and Red returns to a dining table.
Two stall mates comfort the wild Seabiscuit and the hot-tempered Pollard is arrested by one sentence from Charles Howard, "Son, what are you so mad at?". Dealing with his wounded heart at the bridge, he returns in humility to ask for help. It is one of the most touching scenes in the movie because it reveals the Father's heart toward a lost son (Luke 15:18-24). Not only is he still wanted, but also he is given more than what he asked for.
It takes time and trust to move from the barn to the bedroom - to go from orphan to son, from wandering exile to home. Red learns to trust Charles Howard when he loses his most important race "by a nose". Instead of receiving a beating, he receives kindness. He won't be discarded because he is blind in one eye; he will remain Seabiscuit's jockey.
The wonderful story of "Seabiscuit" is that the race that was lost by a nose is possible to win again. The dream and destiny that were God's original plan and were stolen by the enemy can be redeemed. Seabiscuit and Red Pollard are restored not so much in body as they are in their heart. As Pollard tells Woolf, "It's not in his feet, it is right here in his heart." It is heart that causes Seabiscuit to triumph over War Admiral, and it is heart that brings him and John Pollard across the finish line at Santa Anita.
The movie ends in a wonderful way: the track ahead.....the race just keeps going. For those who have been restored in the Father's House, the story never ends; it just keeps going from glory to glory to glory.
Scripture: Ephesians 2:1-10
1. John means "The Lord is Gracious".