I don’t know about you, but I’m getting very little done these days because of the Olympics. My big window of opportunity to get in some extra credit productivity is after the kids go to bed (8:30 or 9:00), but these days I use up that time watching slaloms and salchows. I am enjoying it thoroughly, but it will be nice when it’s all over and I can start checking items off of my to-do list again.
For my money the most exciting event is the short-track speedskating. I don’t know if you’ve seen this event, but it combines tactical nuance with speed and agility. It’s very gripping. The single event that I enjoyed the most, however, was the men’s cross-country skiing relay (I’m sure it has some official name, but I don’t remember it). In case you missed it, apparently Norway and Italy finished inches apart in each of the last two Olympics, so this year was the big grudge match. Sure enough, as they came into the final leg of the relay, Italy and Norway were in a virtual tie for first. Kilometer after kilometer the two racers remained that way, playing a sort of cat-and-mouse game. In the end it came down to a frantic, exhausting sprint for the finish, with the Norwegian pulling away ever so slightly in the final 100 feet. It was great drama, amazing athleticism, natural suspense. I loved it.
I almost felt my own muscles tightening as I saw those two skiers strain toward the finish line. I had trouble remaining in my seat. I imagined the powerful emotions each athlete felt as he gave all he had to win out. Failure was clearly not an option; both for country and for self, victory was a necessity, and each Olympian seemed bent on achieving that end no matter the cost. For me, it was an inspiring moment.
There is, of course, a universal language in sport, especially when it involves the simple premise of trying to win a race. Even non-athletes understand the notion that victory over formidable foes can only be had through dedication, sacrifice, and complete commitment to achieve. Those who try any less cannot expect to wear the victor’s crown.
It was with that understanding in mind that the apostle Paul penned these inspiring lines to the Corinthians some 2000 years ago: Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye many obtain. (1 Corinthians 9:24)
In these few words, Paul is reminding each of us that we should live our lives in such a way that we may obtain the ultimate prize: eternal life. He makes it clear that in striving for eternal goals, we cannot afford to be casual and merely hope for the best, but rather we should “run” as if to win.
May we each take personal inspiration from these fine athletes as we ponder the things that matter most.