Lauren and Mikaela--identical twins living on opposite coasts--blog about the story of life and their adventures in faith.

2.12.2010

Ten Seconds

I’ll just come right out and admit it, whispering my secret into the blogosphere—our family loves the Olympics. Four years ago, we watched through our fingers in horror as Lindsey Jacobellis did a broadcast-on-international-television illustration of “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18)” She was in a decisive first place, grabbed her snowboard to show off, fell, and managed to barely finish with the silver. It made for a great sermon illustration for my dad.

Two years ago, Michael Phelps transfixed us as he swum victory lap after victory lap, making it look incredibly easy to leave the world-class competition in his wake. Our family grinned at each other every time our flag was raised, our anthem filled the stadium, and he received another gold medal.

This year will be no different. We’ve scoped out where to watch the games online, made plans with some friends to watch it at their house one night, and we’re already getting excited about the familiar faces that we get to see back on the snow and ice. The Flying Tomato, anyone? How about our own Washingtonian, Apolo Ohno? And can you believe Lindsay Vohn just injured herself again? Ask me to list what Winter Olympic sports I like, and I’ll start slow and build up: figure skating…ski jumping…snowboard cross, skiingspeedskatingsnowboardhalfpipe…did I miss anything? Oh yeah, curling…I could care less about that one, I’ll admit! (-:

What floors me, though, is how much of their lives these athletes devote to that elusive chance of standing on the podium with gold around their neck. Cross country skiers train twice a day, six days a week for an average of 700 hours yearly! That equals almost one solid month of 24-hour a day training! Alpine skiers practice up to twice a day with each session lasting between two to four hours. My dutiful runs every week suddenly seem paltry in comparison!
Jesse Owens, African-American athlete from the 1936 Summer Olympics, put it best: A lifetime of training for just ten seconds.

Ten seconds. That is the way of the earthly athlete, but how does the investment compare with the return? Eric Liddell's life shows a far better return: We can have a just a lifetime of training for an eternity of reward.

In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Paul references the Greek games, which included the Olympics, saying:
“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”

An Olympian rises at an early hour, eats only specific foods, trains in his sport, exercises, trains some more, and goes to bed at an early time. There are many legitimate things he could do which are not necessarily bad, but they simply have no place in his single-minded program of winning. The gold medalist shuns anything that could possibly distract or deter him, for he knows that the difference between winnin and losing may come down to a hair-breadth of a second or a percentage of a point.

Olympian Sebastian Coe expressed the devastation of losing in this way: "To anyone who has started out on a long campaign believing that the gold medal was destined for him, the feeling when, all of a sudden, the medal has gone somewhere else is quite indescribable."

These athletes have devoted their entire lives to these fleeting next few weeks, and then, in a year or two, once they are past their “peak” of competitive sports, they will start their lives over, disappear from the Wheaties boxes, and begin a new career. So I ask myself: if they give so much for a temporary crown, why would we not do it for an eternal one? Why would we not train twice a day, seven days a week, 700 hours a year for our eternal crown? Which is the more valuable?
"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. (Heb. 12:1)"

It requires rigid self-control, single-mindedness, and determination to push through the injuries and discouragement. It requires discipline to ignore those things which are good and seek after the best. Seeking this eternal crown requires concentration, focus, self-denial, and, thankfully for Vancouver, there is no snow necessary.

2 comments:

  1. Ready, Set, Go!

    The part about the verses that you quoted that stand out in my mind is the "setting aside every hinderance".

    This world has a bountiful supply of distractions. In my arrogant opinion ;), I think that this is always Satan's first objective. How can we be decieved if we have our focus on that imperishable crown? If our focus is on Christ, then discerning Satan's temptations are easy. So Satan must first, get us looking at the tree before he can get us to eat from it.

    That's my 2 cents.

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  2. Excellent point, Lauren! I have been convicted lately about how little time God occupies in my thought life. I am usually thinking about a multitude of "other" things that don't include Him at all. While I realize that days get busy, I also know that there are many times when my hands are busy and my mind is free. But I must admit that meditation is a discipline that I have not cultivated as I should. I envy our Puritan forefathers who seemed to spend so much time thinking deeply of spiritual things.

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