The Olympics and the Paralympics are over. Medals have been won and the athletes are back home. The party’s over, but the pilgrimages continue.
It may seem strange to use the word ‘pilgrimage’, a journey with a sense of purpose, to a destination that is of significance to us, a journey that takes time, and on the way tests us, gives us opportunities for greater self-awareness and a sense of achievement and fulfilment.
Perhaps sport is not our thing. We didn’t like it at school and haven’t bothered with it since. We may wonder what the point is of going round and round a track on a cycle or making a horse prance around a ring, of riding a skateboard up and down a set of slopes, or ploughing up and down a fifty metre pool? Yet, in that search for gold, many life lessons will have been offered on the way. The athletes will have suffered slips and falls – sometimes literally. It’s easy for us to forget that they are, like us, human beings on a journey.
Two bouts of Covid within 18 months put gold medal winning swimmer Tom Dean out of action. He had to recover, start again and rebuild his strength and fitness before he could compete. American sprinter Alysson Felix values the bronze medal she won in Tokyo above all the golds and silvers she had won in previous Olympics. In the light of recovery from life-saving surgery during pregnancy, she says that she doesn’t really rank her medals, “but this one is just so different.” Polish javelin thrower Maria Andrejczyk missed out on a medal in 2016 by two centimetres. She won silver in Tokyo having suffered serious injury and a diagnosis of bone cancer on the way. Hearing about a sick child needing to raise funds for treatment in the US, she offered her medal for auction. The funds were raised. “This silver can save lives instead of collecting dust in a closet…The true value of a medal always remains in the heart.”
So, like all these athletes, “…let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us…” and, in our case, “ looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith…” (Hebrews 12:1-2)