Enlarge My Heart

ALT="rider on thoroughbred at race track"

By Davalynn Spencer @davalynnspencer

“I will run in the course of Your commandments,
for You shall enlarge my heart”
(Psalm 119:32).

This verse was listed in my morning reading one day last week and left me wondering what it meant for God to enlarge my heart.

I know people often complement a generous or compassionate person by saying he or she has a “big heart.” But that is a metaphorical phrase directed toward someone’s character.

Is that what the Psalmist meant when he wrote of the Lord, “You shall enlarge my heart”?

I suspected there was more to it than that.

Because of my exposure to the thoroughbred racing industry through my husband’s chaplaincy tenure at Arkansas’s Oak Lawn Park in the late 1980s, I’d learned a little about race horses and the tendency of many to have enlarged hearts. Famed 1973 Triple Crown winner, Secretariat, came to mind.

Those in the know say he had an exceptionally large heart.

The average weight of a horse’s heart is about 8.5 pounds, but race horses often carry a larger muscle that propels them down the raceway. Centuries of tradition have dictated that only the head, heart, and hooves of great race horses are buried, but upon Secretariat’s death in 1989, he was buried whole and intact with honor at Kentucky’s Claiborne Farm.

Head pathologist at the University of Kentucky, Dr. Thomas Swerszek, performed the necropsy.

“We just stood there in stunned silence,” Swerszek said. “We couldn’t believe it. The heart was perfect. There were no problems with it. It was just this huge engine.”

Swerszek did not weigh Secretariat’s heart, but in 1993 he weighed the heart of another great race horse, Sham, and found it to weigh 18 pounds. It was smaller than Secretariat’s, and Swerszek, who had worked on both horses, then estimated Secretariat’s heart to have been close to 22 pounds.

“The heart was what made him able to do what he did,” Swerczek said of Secretariat. 

As with great race horses and their physical hearts, could our metaphorical spiritual hearts play a role in our efforts at “running the course” of God’s commands? Walking – or running – in His ways is not something we can do on our own strength, so we need God to enlarge our hearts.

The Apostle Paul alluded to the endurance necessary to live a Christian life when he said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

Racing isn’t easy, whether we are running, swimming, or riding. It requires training, strength, and tenacity – all traits equally necessary for our spiritual race as well. 

I’m grateful to know that I’m not in this race of life on my own, with merely my own skill to rely on. I wouldn’t make it. But with God enlarging my heart by His Holy Spirit, the finish line is reachable.


Watch Secretariat secure the 1973 Triple Crown title as he wins the mile-and-a-half Belmont Stakes by at least 25 lengths.

Photo: Unidentified horse and rider in a foggy morning workout at Oaklawn Park Race Track, Hot Springs, AR, 1984.

You will enlarge my heart. Share on X

An Impossible Price by Davalynn Spencer

The lathered stallion blew and struck, head high, eyes wide and wild. Fear and pain were a volatile mix, Clay well knew. Who in their right mind would send a hot-blooded horse like this on a train without a handler?

A crewman came up the ramp and quickly led two horses out. Clay untied a half dozen more, looped their leads around their necks, and slapped them toward the door. After pulling his hat off, he dragged his sleeve across his forehead, then screwed the hat down hard. He had to come at the horse from the side—not unseen, but not straight on either. Setting his voice at a low, easy tone, he stepped away from the wall and eased toward the stallion.

If he survived, he might be the worse for wear. If he didn’t, at least he’d die doing what he loved. ~An Impossible Price


Inspirational Western Romance – where the hero is heroic.

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2 thoughts on “Enlarge My Heart

  1. Lori Smanski

    This is a really interesting and informative post. I remember in the early 80’s my dad used to like to take us five kids to the race track and watch the horses run. Of course he liked talking to other businessmen also. But I learned a lot of things about race horses just by listening to others around me. So fascinating. This was not one thing that I had heard or learned. This is fascinating. I so agree that God makes our hearts bigger for him to use, like character, patience, compassion etc.

    1. davalynn

      Thank you, Lori. Yes, there’s something thrilling about watching horses run. And your list of God’s tools is great: character, patience, compassion.


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