You see, I just happened to be at the Olympics (because, you know, people just show up there without reason), when this big burly guy comes up to me. I think I knew him; he seemed familiar. Apparently, something had happened to his buddy at the last minute, and he was in desperate need of a new partner if he was to compete. Being the happy-go-lucky person that I am, I naturally said, “Sure!” Hey, I've been sledding before, why not? Two-man bob-a-luge? Bring it on!
“You don’t have to do anything,” he said as we worked our way to the top of the slide, “You sit and I’ll do the running.” So I curled up on the back of the sled while he grabbed the bar and ran, then hopped on, bob-sled formation on the luge-style sled. We won the bronze! It was a proud moment.
This was my dream the other night. I wouldn't have made much of it (other than to note I’m probably watching too much Bob Costas—a fact easily confirmed every day in school when our kids break out in another rendition of the Olympic theme song!), but someone jokingly suggested I analyze it. This time I didn't slide down the ice-covered track so quickly, but it came to me later that God is very like that big burly guy. He’s familiar. He sometimes asks us to do crazy things like the bob-a-luge. He has the plan, the course is slick and sometimes dangerous with lots of twists and turns—but He’ll be in charge. He provides the speed and energy, the steering, and the sled. And since my face is buried in His back, I might not always know what’s ahead.
God doesn’t say that we must be the best, that we must win—He says, “Run in such a way as to get the prize.” (1 Cor 9:24) He’s looking for our faithfulness: that we run with perseverance; that we don’t give up.
“Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” I Cor. 9:25
The muscle we strengthen, train, race with, is faith.
“But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope…You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?” Gal. 5:5, 7
The truth, the supporting ligament-thoughts are critical to our faith, just as they are to an Olympian. What is this truth we must cling to, that gets clipped by lies when Satan storms in like a soon-to-be-disqualified short-track speed-skater and sends us sprawling into the boards on our backs? Righteousness comes through the Spirit, and not by human effort (Gal. 3:3)
Sometimes we doubt the surety of God’s faithfulness, of His never-failing loving-kindness, that He truly doesn’t count our sins against us. We unwittingly fill our minds with a guilt that condemns—sometimes we lay sprawled on the ice, convinced of our own inadequacy and not accepting the hand up God offers.
“But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation--if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.” Col 1:22-23
This is our race, to firmly trust in the hope held out in the Gospel. I think all of life requires Olympic level training for our faith—but chronic illness is surely an event that brings the necessity of that training to the forefront.
When I consider how my light is spent*
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide;
"Doth God exact day-labor, light denied?"
I fondly ask; but Patience to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, "God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts' who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o'er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait."
God doesn’t look at us as excess baggage when we ride with Him—He delights in us, and amazingly He shares the glory with us. They also serve who only stand and wait.
“…The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike.” 1 Samuel 30:24b.
We finish the race, together. And someday you’ll find yourself at that Great Reunion in the sky, and say with surprise, “Hey, I’m an Olympian!”
Still Running the Race, Merry
* Milton went totally blind in 1651 & wrote this ca. 1652. By the way, the "one talent which is death to hide" is a reference to the parable of the talents & the servant who buried his talent instead of using it. What a struggle to want to use that talent instead, but be restricted. Also, "fondly" then meant foolishly, which makes more sense! (I fondly ask = I foolishly ask).
© copyright February, 2006