Running Together

The Commonwealth Games are here and as a sporting tragic I’m looking forward to taking in moments of “gold” over the next few weeks, as well as all the footy on offer at this time of year. As I’ve been watching some of the Games’ athlete previews, some of my favourite sporting moments have again been echoing in my mind.

Now there are many I could write about, but in today’s Fuel let me reflect on one beautiful sporting story that offers great encouragement, no matter where you find yourself at in life.

Come back with me to Barcelona and the 1992 Olympic Games where British athlete Derek Redmond was a favourite to win gold on the track in the 400-metres. Having been plagued by many injuries it seemed like this would finally be Redmond’s moment to experience Olympic glory. He cruised through the early rounds and looked to be in great form, but then it all came crashing down as he tore a hamstring in his semi-final race.

His Olympic dreams had been shattered and in physical and emotional agony, Redmond got to his feet and began to limp around the track. He was devastated – pain written all over his face and body.

Suddenly Redmond was joined by his far from athletic looking father wearing a big white Nike shirt. The father put his arm around his son and as the crowd stood to cheer them on, together they wrote a wonderful chapter in Olympic history. They walked to the finish line together, with Redmond’s father repeating these words: “Son we are going to finish this race together”!

The record books may list Redmond as a non-finisher in the race, but history has captured him as a true champion.

Recalling this great sporting moment, the words, “Son we are going to finish this race together” have been resonating deep within my heart and soul over the past week. Maybe you need to hear them in your life today.

We all experience the stress of living in our fast-paced, demanding world. When we add to that family or relational challenges or perhaps financial or health concerns, along with work pressures and other concerns, we can at times feel weighed down or stretched to capacity.

Against such a backdrop we are reminded that the Bible sees life and faith as a long-distance race – a marathon rather than a short sprint. Yes, it’s one thing to start well, or run fast and succeed, but ultimately the Bible calls us to be people who go the distance – who run the race – and finish well!

In our 24-7-365 hectic world, where so often we are challenged to think short-term and where immediacy and instant gratification are championed, we can lose sight of the importance of perseverance, a biblical value to be cherished.

As I look again online at Derek Redmond, with his arm around his father, limping across the finish line, I am reminded that I need others surrounding me if I am to run strong and finish well in life.

Redmond experienced the physical pain of a torn hamstring. We all know what it is to be ‘hamstrung’ in life by physical, emotional, relational and spiritual challenges. When times are tough it is good to know we have others to lean on; reaching out in these times is a sign of strength, rather than weakness. In my earlier years I was very quick to offer support to others, but too slow in seeking it for myself. Thankfully I am learning more of how to get this balance right.

We all need loved ones, family, friends, mentors, coaches, pastors, advisors, mates, encouragers and confidantes. At times we may need professional support as well – be that in our personal lives or family contexts.

Today as you take stock of where you find yourself at in life, your response may be to thank God for the community you are privileged to have around you. You may be challenged to reach out to another who you know is doing it tough. Your presence and encouragement may be a gift much needed by a friend or colleague. Or, with authenticity and vulnerability, you may acknowledge that you all too often ‘run’ alone and that you need to intentionally seek out the support of others.

With the words of Derek Redmond’s dad echoing in my mind – “Son we are going to finish this race together” – I have also been reminded afresh that as I seek to “run the race” my loving, gracious Creator God is right by my side, cheering me on! We’ve just come from Easter where my value to God is so clearly seen.

Yes, just as my faithful God was there in the past to pick me up when life seemed all too hard, I celebrate again today his enduring presence and strength; his deep, robust, sustaining, compassionate and caring love. He is the God of all seasons of life; there with us on the mountain tops of life and as we walk through deep, dark valleys.

Today, picture a loving God putting his arm around you, and hear his words: “Son/daughter – we are going to finish this race together.”

Scott Pilgrim