The Rocking-Horse Winner

The Rocking-Horse Winner

By Melissa Brogdon

While working toward my bachelor’s degree, I was fortunate enough to have required reading assignments that I truly enjoyed. One of which was a book called The Rocking-Horse Winner by D.H. Lawerence, first published in 1933. It is a grim tale about a family obsessed with money and status. So consumed by materialism, their dwelling place becomes an encapsulated nightmare of whispers for wealth. Their home begins to echo the greed of its owners: “And so, the house came to be haunted by the unspoken phrase: There must be more money! There must be more money!”

The main protagonist of the story is young Paul, who comes to believe his rocking-horse is the answer to the family’s woes. So, every night young Paul mounts his rocking-horse in the belief that if he rides hard enough, he will win the derby race of his imagination and achieve the prize of abundance so desperately sought by his family. “He knew the horse could take him where there was luck, if only he forced it. So, he would mount again, and start on his furious ride, hoping at last to get there. He knew he could get there” The ride of young Paul on his wooden rocking-horse is symbolic of a simple truth; a life led by anything other than Christ, is a derby race with no end. The author uses the tumultuous family dynamic of young Paul to depict the dangers of materialism and the peril of modeling a life before children without Christ as its anchor.  “Train up a child in the way they should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6).  This proverb is an encouragement to godly parents and a warning to those professing Christianity yet not walking in it.

The irony of the tale is in the title itself: Who declares the winner of a rocking-horse race and when will this race be won? Only until the rider topples to the floor, lifeless and spent. In his death, he has lost a race with no ending and this was the dire consummation to the life and story of our protagonist, young Paul.

It is said that death comes in many forms: in this tale it was the death of faith in hopeless things and the physical death of young Paul. But there is a story that unfolds to a very different ending. The protagonist in this story is Christ. When the gospel is juxtaposed beside this tale, we see one blinding truth: the faithful life of one person, dependent on God is a life which death cannot touch. In the life, death, and resurrection of Christ we see a race run with a steadfast pace and commitment ‘till the last breath, where the goal and prize are the glory of God. And so it is for every person who puts their hope in Christ.

Philippians 3:10-14
“That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

So, I ask, what is your rocking-horse? What are you exerting so much effort into without progression? What is promising fulfillment and yet leaving you exhausted and empty? What is your dopamine hit? The thing that keeps you returning; deceiving you with whispers of abundance. It could be a person, a profession, a passion, perhaps a ministry. Even good and godly things can become an unhealthy obsession if pursued without yielding to the Spirit. Here is my admonition: Get off your rocking-horse. Run to the cross with the strength left in you. This is the race each believer should pursue, one which also ends in death: death of pride, lust, greed, etc.…yet also to life everlasting. One whose treasure a dreamer cannot fathom, nor man grasp by will or luck. 1 Corinthians 2:9-10, “But as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.’” These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searched everything, even the depths of God. As believers we have eternity planted in our hearts and this eternity begins in the arms of our Father; a prize unearned, yet shared because of the death and resurrection of our King. Let Christ be the hope you pursue, let each of us arrive at our last lap in the race of life spent…spent on the assurance of the cross.

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1 Comment

Christine Wilson - August 18th, 2023 at 5:26pm

Beautifully written Melissa. Thought provoking, humbling, and filled with hope ❤️




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