The Olympic winter games are drawing to a close and, for the watching world, it’s been two weeks of soaring highs and thudding lows.
It’s impossible to watch Olympic competition and miss the illustrations for life. Pursuit of the prize. Fighting till the end. Resilience. Determination. Drive. Unwillingness to quit. Eyes on the finish line.
Some of the hardest moments to watch are when an athlete—from any country—has the capacity to win but fumbles, misses the mark, makes a mistake and, in a single moment, fails to grasp the prize they’ve been striving toward for years. We ache with them, just a little, when they cross the finish line and instead of raising their arms in triumphant victory, sag low in defeat.
One Canadian athlete who won a silver medal, but failed to win gold, said this: “All Canadians say sorry, but I’m sorry. I’m disappointed in myself. I had that chance and I didn’t grasp it.” Like many other Canadians watching, it was a tender moment to hear him voice the ever-Canadian words of apology even while a gleaming silver medal hung round his neck.
This same athlete has shared in the past that mental focus is one of his challenges, and that when he loses focus—when his mind drifts even a little—he’s prone to stumble and make mistakes. After his silver-medal win, he shared how he’d been trying to focus on his key words during his performance.
Words that bring focus. Words that crowd out distraction. Words that renew the mind to focus on those things that matter most.
In the battle that is the life of faith, we also seek to crowd out all that competes to distract us from what matters most. We, too, are encouraged to focus on what matters most of all.
Key words. Central truths. Foundational theological realities.
Just like athletes, the particular ways that we’re prone to distraction often vary from person to person. For some, the distractions are inherently good things, but distractions nonetheless. For others, the distractions are inherently bad things, impeding growth in every way. And for still others, the distractions come in the more subtle form of periphery theological convictions where there is room for difference, but that somehow wind up becoming central in our minds and hearts when they should never have become so important to us in the first place.
And so we ought to ask: What are those things that habitually distract me from that which matter most? When we’re willing to engage in honest reflection of our thought life, the answer is usually clear.
The other question, then, is this: What key words renew my mind and reorient me toward the Word?
Faith. Grace. Repentance. Forgiveness. Obedience. Hope.
And like athletes fighting to the very end, we say along with the writer of Hebrews, “…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."