TRETIAK, GRACE, COURAGE, AND DESIRE...
Friday night, as Erin and I watched the opening ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympics from Sochi, I was reminded of why it is that I love the Olympics (and not just because I think a competitor can be an athlete while the competition they are in is not a sport - but that's another column.) Additionally, I was reminded of one of the central tenets of our beliefs as the people called Methodist (more on that below, but there's a hint in the picture to the left.)
I love the Olympics because I am a proud citizen of the USA, and admire those young men and women who represent me and 310+ million other citizens of what is, in my opinion, the best country in the world.
I love the Olympics because (and don't you dare tell Erin this) I do enjoy most of the backstories that we see about athletes not only from our country, but from all over the world. A skier from one of our European friends, a speed skater who left his homeland to compete with another country after experiencing success at prior Olympics, to the men and women who serve as the lone representatives of their country, and many others, remind me that one of the great things about the world in which we live is that we share a common bond found in athletic competition.
I love the Olympics because it is a reminder that what we may have thought impossible 10-15 years ago is now the norm (gotta love the half-pipe,) as well as the new sports like Slopestyle that push us to think about new things in new ways.
But it's the picture above that I keep coming back to, specifically the man who is holding the Olympic torch. Many may have heard about Vladislav Tretiak, the Russian goaltender who was pulled at the end of the first period of the 'Miracle on Ice' game from the 1980 Lake Placid games. However, Tretiak is regarded as one of, if not the best, goaltender of all-time. His work as part of the Russian National Team and within Russian hockey is legendary.
Yeah, yeah - a Russian goaltender. Who cares?
Well, you might be interested to know that the only reason Tretiak became interested in becoming a goalie is that when he started hockey around age 11, no one seemed to have the desire or courage to play the position. (Admittedly, it does take a special person to lace up the pads and have people shoot very hard rubber discs your way at speeds that hit and exceed 80MPH on a regular basis.)
And that, my friends, got me thinking about how greatness occurs. It's not just about ability. There is also courage and desire that goes into being successful at whatever we do.
Jesus calls us to do something even more difficult than stand in the net and have guys shoot pucks at you all day long. We are called to 'love the Lord our God with everything we have, and our neighbor as ourselves.'
Do we have the courage and desire to do so? Or will we settle for 'letting someone else' handle it?
Beyond courage and desire, however, is one other thing that the greatest athletes in the world share, one thing they have in common with you, me, and everyone else who ever has or will draw breath - they have within them the grace of God. Whether or not they are awake to it is a different story, but make no mistake about it - if not for the grace of God, no one would draw breath.
The Olympics are not merely a celebration of the world's greatest athletes. Nor are they simply a celebration of those who had the courage, desire, and good fortune to get to compete at the Olympic level.
The Olympics are a testimony to the grace of God, whether anyone knows it or not, for each of these competitors are developing and honing talent that, at it's root, is God-given.
Just like you and me.
Grace and Peace, Lamar