There is a silence that hangs over the most intimate conversation.
A silence that hangs over the most intimate of conversations an earthly man can have: a conversation where he gives thanks to his unearthly God.
It’s in that moment – the one that hangs in the air like the sweet first scents of spring – where we see the depth to which man’s faith affects him. In that moment when the whole world can be watching, eyes on the great victors, where the roar of a crowd is shouts of congratulations, there is a silence.
It is a silence Mike Smith has known since he was a little boy, tucked in the pew in his Sunday best, where he was introduced to faith at his Grandmother’s side. The woman who helped raise Mike, while his mother finished college, made certain to recite bible verses as they fit into their every day lives. During moments of trial, when the small boy wondered about the world, when injustices passed through his innocent eyes and things felt simply unfair, it was faith that brought him through.
Faith… and those bible verses.
It was this relationship with his Grandmother that became central in Mike’s life. “I’m a very strong believer,” Mike says, “but she was my foundation. She was the one that started me in it and she gave me everything that I needed to be a good and successful man.”
And a successful man he has become as one of the greatest jockeys to grace the racetrack. Throughout his career, his faith has stayed close by his side. His conversations with his God as race time nears involve all the things we would expect – safety, for horse and jockey, and a fair race for all.
But it’s in the moments following Mike’s wins, no matter how big or how small, that we see the core of his faith – in his gratitude. And we see it in that iconic moment:
It’s a moment that has never changed – whether it’s in front of thousands of people or in the quiet solitude of his lone company – and a moment that has been deeply engrained in this jockey. A moment where a conversation is taking place that is intimate and sacred – silent and stilled.
It hangs in the balance of but a split second; half in this world and half in a spiritual world we cannot see… or touch… or feel. We can only observe what seems to be a man frozen between ethers, where time has simply come to a stop.
He hangs there, oblivious to the thousands of eyes turned towards him in celebration, in a tableau we’ve come to know with heartwarming familiarity: arms outstretched, head tilted skyward and lips pursed in a whispered prayer.
This is an image – a moment – of true victory.
Header photo of Mike Smith aboard Shared Belief by Alex Evers of Eclipse Sportswire