I’m sure many of you tuned into the Winter Olympics in Vancouver during the past few weeks. This time around, in
addition to watching some of the competition, I also happened to catch both the opening and closing ceremonies.
The opening ceremony was beautifully choreographed and staged. There were people skating, dancing and flying through the air – music, lights, and special effects. The whole thing came to a climax when the torch was brought into the stadium by six-time Paralympics medalist Rick Hansen. Hockey great Wayne Gretsky and a few others were also invited to participate in lighting the Olympic flame.
With great fanfare and anticipation, the celebrity athletes waited on the floor of the stadium as millions of viewers watched from all over the world. The floor opened and up came the various parts of the massive torch – the centerpiece surrounded by four other torches encircling the center. The drama! The beauty! The – wait, something’s not working. One section of the torch was stuck in the floor!
Of course, the show went on. The parts of the torch that did function properly were lighted and the games began. Many hundreds of hours later, the athletes and fans gathered once again for the closing ceremonies. When the focus turned again to the giant torch, once more the one arm of the torch seemed to malfunction. This time, however, a clown popped up from the hole and eventually persuaded the stubborn piece to take its rightful place.
I loved by the graceful and humorous way Canada handled a potentially embarrassing situation. So often, when things don’t work out as planned, we erupt with anger or blame. Instead of finding a way to laugh, our actions only make things worse. In the end, it isn’t so much what goes wrong as how we respond. How we finish makes all the difference!
There is a television commercial that began running during the Olympics that carries a simple reminder of this truth. It shows Lance Armstrong on his bike, Deron Williams driving to the basket, and a six-year-old in China learning martial arts. Their movement is a universal language of beauty, drama, tragedy and triumph. And the words of the
song that play behind the images are a reminder that the road to athletic greatness is not marked by perfection, but the ability to overcome adversity and failure: “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. It’s not where you’re from, it’s
where you’re at. Everybody gets knocked down, how quick are you going to get up?”
There is a reason the Apostle Paul used sports imagery so much in his writing; the parallels to a life of faith are obvious. The original Greek Olympics were in full swing during Jesus’ and Paul’s time. Sports are something early Christians not only had in common with one another, but also with us. As we consider our own lives, it would do us well to remember the beautiful words of Hebrews 12: “… let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart. “