I have always enjoyed watching the Olympic Games. As a child, I recall counting down the long years in-between the opportunity to cheer on our athletes, alongside my enthusiastic mother. As an adult, the four-year gap spacing out the Olympics seems to have grown much shorter… even the five -year wait this time around has flown by all too quickly. These days I anticipate both the Summer and Winter Games alongside my youngest daughter, who also likes to binge on anything associated with those majestic Olympian rings.
The recent Tokyo games did not disappoint and in many ways, the spectacular event gave us a good dose of inspirational hope and a glimpse into what a united world could look like. But as much as I enjoyed our incredible Aussie golden moments, I am now eagerly counting the mere days left before the next competition. Let the Paralympic Games begin!
Truth be told, as I watch from the comfort of my couch (maybe digesting a little chocolate treat in a body that ain’t getting any younger), I relate more to these athletes – you know what I mean? The stories we will hear over coming weeks, and the amazing feats we will witness, seem to resonate with our own broken journeys and deeply held longings to overcome our limitations. Perhaps more than ever before, our restricted and disabled world needs the Paralympics and the lessons these Games can teach us.
The word ‘Paralympics’ was coined in 1953, and was first associated with the word ‘paraplegia’. However, it was soon to be identified more with the prefix ‘para’ that comes from the Greek meaning: alongside. It is where we get the word parallel. The Paralympic Games is a multi-sport event, involving athletes with a wide range of disabilities. As we know, this unique parallel event has always been held alongside the Olympic Games and for many of us, the Paralympics shine bright as the highlight of the Olympic season.
By the way, in the New Testament, the Holy Spirit of God is called ‘The Paraclete’ = the one who comes alongside. He is the One who enables the disabled. Did you know that Paralympians have a motto? A creed we are also called to live by as spiritual athletes? The motto is: SPIRIT IN MOTION. (Love it!)
Here’s a little more Olympic trivia: The goal of the International Paralympic Committee is to enable Paralympians to achieve sporting excellence and inspire and excite the world. WOW! Even their iconic colours of red, blue and green hold significant meaning: ‘I move – I shake – I stir!’ (I’m loving all the parallels to the Christ-life here.)
Perhaps with an ancient Olympic event in mind, the Apostle Paul spoke into this concept of living our new life in Christ much like elite athletes need to: with discipline, with intentionality and with a goal in mind…
Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NLT
Good one Paul. But do you know what friends? Even after years of discipline and training, spiritual, emotional, relational and physical disabilities can hit us in an instant, out of nowhere. So, whether you are feeling fit or flabby right now, whether all is well with your soul or you are down and out for the count, as athletes in the race of life we are not alone. We have The Paraclete alongside, and we most certainly need each other as we run with victory towards the finish line. Check out this clip, with a box of tissues handy: Emotional Finish Lines
I hope you get to enjoy the Paralympics with me. And as we support our team (and reach for more tissues), may we also be challenged by our own need to BE Spiritual Athletes: People of God who are regularly stretched, disciplined and trained. Brothers and sisters with Christ who reflect His loving light to a world in need. His Beloved ones filled with His Spirit: at times running and often staggering on our race Home – all with eyes on the Prize!