Admit it. When you sit down to watch the Olympics, doesn’t a teeny part of you wonder… “Could that have been me? I wonder if I had started skating or skiing or bobsledding or curling before I could walk — could that be me representing my country and bringing home the gold?”
I used to think this. Then I’d hear the announcer share something like, “Just 16 years old, so and so has been skating since they were just two and a half. They spend ten hours a day on the ice, taking their meals intravenously and wearing a diaper so they don’t waste valuable practice time eating and relieving themselves.”
Yeah. On second thought, I definitely do not have that kind of commitment to any sport. Except maybe shopping.
Then comes the worst part, when they show the faces of the losers. The faces of those who missed finishing third by mere hundredths of a second or whose artistic interpretation earned them a score that left them in fifth place. Frozen tears running down their cheeks, I often find myself crying along on the couch, not because of the medal they missed out on that day, but of all the moments in life they’d missed to bring them to that point.
The birthday parties. The family vacations. The school dances. Sleeping in on Saturday mornings. Olympic athletes sacrifice a lot in their quest for gold. I often wonder, looking at the contenders who have just missed a medal, if it was worth it?
When writing to the Corinthians, St. Paul used a metaphor that resonated with the athletics-obsessed folks in ancient Greece as much as it does to us in this present day. Exhorting them to look to the athletes they idolized, he compared following Christ to running a race, pointing out that “Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one” (1 Corinthians 9:25).
Life holds so many ways to spend time, but not every pursuit will take us towards this “imperishable crown” of eternity with Christ in heaven. I can look back on my life, so far, and be at peace with the fact that unless tweeting or eating chocolate becomes a contest in the Olympics, I’ll never win a gold medal.
What haunts me is the question of whether I’m doing all I can to pursue Christ and win the victory of heaven.
As we watch all those athletes compete for the gold, it’s an opportunity to consider what we’re pursuing in our lives and where it’s taking us. Are we spending all our time and energy chasing perishable crowns like a high score on “Flappy Bird,” yearbook mentions, or the most “likes” on Instagram? Or are we pursuing the imperishable crown of eternity with Christ?
We can channel our time and talents into many goals, but only heaven lasts forever.