One of my favorite sports memories involves a runner who was the last to cross the finish line. Derek Redmond was an elite athlete who had a chance to bring home a medal in the 1992 Olympics as Great Britain’s 400-meter representative. After an injury-plagued career, Redmond seemed ready to leave a lasting legacy at the Barcelona Games. He had recorded the fastest time in the first heat and won his quarter-final race.
Redmond started well in the semifinal, but about 150 meters into the race his hamstring snapped, and he collapsed in agony.
Medical personnel rushed to his aid, but Redmond waved them off. He struggled to his feet and began to hobble around the track. He was going to finish the race.
Cheers rang out for the actual winner of the race, but then the crowd of sixty-five thousand in the stadium began to comprehend the drama unfolding of a solitary figure limping in agony toward the finish.
The spectators rose as one to encourage the courageous athlete. Another official offered
help and was brushed away. Suddenly, a man broke through security and ran onto the track.
It was Derek Redmond’s father. Derek heard a familiar voice and recognized this helper. He buried his face in his father’s chest and sobbed. Jim Redmond told his son that he was loved and didn’t have to do this. But Derek set his eyes toward the finish and simply said, “Yes, I do.”
His father replied, “Then we will finish this together.”
Leaning on his father’s shoulder, Derek Redmond limped to the finish line. Near the end Jim let his son go so he could cross the finish line on his own. A standing ovation greeted Redmond.
The Olympic records state that Derek Redmond did not finish, because he received help. I would argue that no Olympian has ever finished better than Derek Redmond. He refused to let adversity keep him from the prize of finishing the race. Not winning. Finishing. That is such a beautiful image of how our earthly race often looks. I suspect that many who achieve heavenly standing
ovations will finish with a limp and with eyes focused solely on Jesus.
That is how I see my race that Paul describes so beautifully.
“Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus,is calling us.” (Philippians 3:13-14, NLT)
When I fall or am hurt again, I know that I can bury my face in the comforting chest of Abba Father and we will finish together.
Reprinted from Waking Up Slowly.
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