Nostalgia is a powerful thing. As people get older, they became teary-eyed for the “good old days,” especially if they think that life was better–and more moral–in the past than it is now. While there’s no doubt our civilization isn’t what it used to be, growing up in South Florida was a lesson in just how immoral life in these United States could be. It was (and is) a region fully equipped with the vices of the day — including all kinds of gambling such as jai-alai, harness racing and of course the dog track. The only people who seemed to suffer for running gambling operations were the poor Cubans who tried to run a bolita (lottery) operation; after spending years jailing immigrants trying to make a living, the state of Florida (along with most states) does well with its own.
Across the lake from where I grew up was the Palm Beach Kennel Club. Our family never went but when we watched the news every night we’d see Buck Kinnaird’s sports broadcast on Channel 5. (Click here for WPTV’s 50th Anniversary Commemoration in 2004, which gives more information on the early years of the station.) Dog races don’t take too long, so the film clip of that night’s race went by pretty fast. (In truth, I think they always used the same film clip every night.) The track operated a steel rabbit named Rusty. When the race began Rusty was started just ahead of the dogs. The dogs would race while chasing Rusty, and it was the objective of the track to keep Rusty just ahead of the dogs. They usually succeeded in doing so; their occasional failure resulted in the inglorious end of the race.
Florida finally put an end to dog racing, but only for the dogs. For the rest of us too much of life has turned into a dog race where whomever we feel is in control of our situation is “running Rusty” in front of us. From youth onward we’re motivated — pushed and shoved in some cases — to achieve goals which we may have had nothing to do with formulating and which, deep down, we really feel we neither want nor are able to accomplish. If and when we reach these goals it seems that success is more elusive than ever because the “track owner” is moving Rusty faster than we can keep up by either making new demands or enticing us with new things to go harder for. This is called “being challenged” and of course has its upside but in many cases it’s manipulation, pure and simple.
One of the promises of technology was to enable us to have more leisure time and more control over our lives. Sad to say the real result is to turn our lives in to a 24/7 “on demand” race where there’s no escape from anything. The more productive we become with our technological tools the faster “Rusty” is run and the more fatigued we get.
Fortunately the real “track owner” of this world never intended to run people in a perpetual dog race. Jesus told us “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly-minded, and ‘you shall find rest for your souls’; For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30) His race is rather simple:
- There is only one really important objective: “What good will it do a man to gain the whole world, if he forfeits his life? or what will a man give that is of equal value with his life?” (Matthew 16:26) Our main objective is eternal life.
- He has promised he will give us the strength to run the race: “Why, then, do you now provoke God, by putting on the necks of these disciples a yoke which neither our ancestors nor we were able to bear? No, it is through the loving-kindness of the Lord Jesus that we, just as they do, believe that we have been saved.” (Acts 15:10-11)
- He has run the race and won, so can we: “Seeing, therefore, that there is on every side of us such a throng of witnesses, let us also lay aside everything that hinders us, and the sin that clings about us, and run with patient endurance the race that lies before us, our eyes fixed upon Jesus, the Leader and perfect Example of our faith, who, for the joy that lay before him, endured the cross, heedless of its shame, and now ‘has taken his seat at the right hand’ of the throne of God. Weigh well the example of him who had to endure such opposition from ‘men who were sinning against themselves,’ so that you should not grow weary or faint-hearted.” (Hebrews 12:1-3)
Jesus Christ sets before us a simple race to run, a clear objective and a straightforward way to get there. And that’s a lot more than people and institutions can claim these days.
All New Testament quotations taken from the Positive Infinity New Testament.