This month much of the world’s attention will be focused on the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro (August 5-21).
Our blog question asks: How can an athlete’s story or a metaphor from the Olympics inspire your writing and faith?
In Pursuit of Gold
My most memorable Olympics came in 1988 when Calgary hosted the Winter Olympics.
The atmosphere in our city was energized, euphoric even, as for two weeks we were the showcase for the world.
Everyone, it seemed, wanted to volunteer—from singers and dancers at the opening ceremonies, to hosts at venues, to drivers for VIPs.
The Olympics were a culmination of years and months of preparation: for the venues, volunteers, and athletes.
But especially for the athletes.
* * *
As I compose this blog, I can’t help drawing a comparison. While the athletes focus on pursuing Gold, we as followers of Jesus focus on pursuing God.
I’m reminded of how the Apostle Paul used imagery from sports and the Greek Olympics to emphasize how we should live as Christ-followers.
“Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training” (1 Corinthians 9:25).
Just as athletes practice and train for years, so it takes time to cultivate our life and gifts—training our bodies, minds and spirits to become like Christ.
Each day is a chance to develop that relationship with Christ. To be renewed. To become mature believers.
And we can only to become mature believers with the power of our “Coach”, the Holy Spirit.
“Let us throw off everything that so easily hinders us and the sin that so easily entangles us. Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).”
“Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on...to win the prize for which God has called me” (Philippians 3:13-14).
In the 1988 Olympics, Gold was elusive for our Canadian athletes.
Our hopes were pinned on Brian Orser, the World Champion in Men’s Figure Skating. However, he made small mistakes in his performances and won only Silver; Elizabeth Manley, our best Women’s Figure skater, didn’t perform well in her compulsory figures. But she came up from behind with a stellar free program. She, too, won Silver.
Elizabeth Manley Wins Silver
One of my best takeaways from athletes is handling accidents, injuries or mistakes. They’re often devastated at the moment. But then they determine to learn from their mistakes, continue training and achieve higher excellence and skill.
I can be tempted to regret my mistakes.
And yet, and yet…God is in the business of redeeming errors.
“No mistake is so serious but that God can start anew and make something worthwhile from your life,” wrote Wesley Duewel. “God can take any surrendered life and even weave our mistakes into something useful and beautiful.”[i]
Sometimes God has overturned errors of the past; He’s given me hidden valuable lessons that have furthered my ministry to others, both in my life and writing.
“Forget your past, wrote David Wilkerson. “Lay it down before the Lord in His mercy. Now press on in Jesus!”[ii]
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?...They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever” (1 Corinthians 9:24-25).
I wonder if Paul watched an award ceremony, as officials placed a wreath of laurel leaves (a.k.a. bay leaves!) on the winner’s head. How different, he wrote, will be a believer’s reward. An eternal crown.
“So run that you may obtain” (1 Corinthians 9:24).
My prayer for each of us is that we will live so that each day we can say: “I have fought a good fight…I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).