Just some early morning thoughts from me to you…
“I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.”
Philippians 3: 12-14 (The Message)
I wasn’t feeling sorry for myself at that moment, although I have had those times before. But there I was watching something special the other night as this remarkable young man prepared for and then ran in his first ever Olympic race. It was the first qualifying heat of the 400 meter competition at the 2012 London Summer Olympics. No big deal, right?
Except that when other runners before that race were putting on and lacing up their running shoes to compete in that qualifying heat, Oscar Pistorius was putting on and lacing up his legs. Oscar Pistorius is the first ever double leg amputee to run in the Olympics—and it wasn’t easy to get there.
He had competed as a young man in rugby, water polo and tennis, and when he sustained an injury in rugby he began to run, and run he has done ever since. He competes in the Paralympics at the T 44 level (single amputee below the knee) even though he could have competed at the T 43 level of double amputee below the knee, and excelled even more. Instead he competed at the more competitive level of T 44 and won gold in most Paralympic events including Gold medals in the 2008 Beijing Paralympics in the 100, 200 and 400 meter races.
Other than the obvious disadvantage of no legs—having had them both amputated at the age of eleven months as he was born with no fibula in either leg—there were also cries of foul in that the J-shaped carbon-fibre prosthetics devices called the “Cheetah Flex-Foot” which he ran with gave him some kind of advantage over the other runners with naturally attached legs. With naturally attached legs.
He was cleared to compete in the 2008 Summer Olympics, but failed to qualify for the South African teams. But, as a devout follower of Christ, with a mother who passed on to her heavenly home when he was just fifteen, and who encouraged Oscar to believe that he could do most anything he set his mind to, he pressed on to eventually qualify as a member of the South African team for 2012 London Summer Olympics. With two amputated legs.
And just a few days ago on August 4, 2012—as I watched from seven hours away—Oscar Pistorius became the first double leg amputee to participate in the Olympics, and he moved on in his qualifying heat with a second place finish into the semifinals of the 400 meter race. And then while competing in the semi-finals on August 5, 2012 he failed to qualify for the 400 meter final. But I suspect he’ll be back—after he once again puts on his legs to begin another day which God has given him.
A winsome and optimistic twenty-five year old young man, Oscar Pistorius has shared with the world a vision which he himself embraces and which should inspire us all with or without legs:
“You’re not disabled by the disabilities you have,
You are able by the abilities you have.”
And there you have it—through God’s grace we all have been given gifts and abilities—potential—to do all which God has created us to do. Have we discovered them yet? Have we begun to push the envelope of all the potential within us to become all we were created to be? Do we go to the blackboard or raise our hand in class even though we might be wrong? Do we strap on whatever shoes we have, whatever potential we have, whatever gifts and abilities we have—so as to step out into becoming all we were meant to be, and to try again and again until we reach whatever it is we are reaching for with the God who created us?
It is entirely fitting that London, England is the site at which Oscar Pistorius became the first double amputee to compete in the Olympics. For it is the home of one of the great courageous leaders and encouragers of all history—Winston Churchill.
While Prime Minister of England, and on the occasion of his speaking at the commencement exercises at Cambridge University in England, and after a long and beautiful introduction by the host, Winston Churchill stood up to address the graduating class. He leaned over the podium to speak into the microphone to offer them his thoughts on this special occasion in their lives as they stood before all the uncertainty of their future.
They sat there on the edge of their seats, ready to hang on every word this great statesman leader would share with them. After looking back-and-forth across the array of faces he cleared his throat and began:
“Never give up. Never. Never. Never.”
He then sat down. Finished. He had said all he came to say. He had said enough. He really had said it all.
The Apostle Paul—beaten, jailed, shipwrecked, and more—says it in the scripture above from The Message translation, and another translation records his words this way:
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me…Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)
You will be defeated, questioned, challenged and attacked. You will at times feel unable. You will have your legs cut out from under you. You will slip, fall and lose. You will fail. Attacks and distractions will come directly, subtly, internally and externally. And there will be times, when you will not be able to see the sunshine for all the trees and clouds around you.
But you and I have been given one life. And the choice in how we live it is ours—but we will not be able to do this one life over again. We can use it or waste it. We can live each day fully, or not. I have a suggestion for you—if you ever begin to feel sorry for whatever has befallen you, don’t allow the pity party to begin, and instead put on and lace up your running shoes, or if you have a similar mountain to climb like Oscar, then put on and lace up your running legs.
And no matter what we encounter, no matter how difficult the journey, God will still be there to help us to press on, to step out, and to run and never look back.
Just something to think about as we press on together with Him.
In His Name—Scott
Copyright 2012. Scott L. Whitaker. All rights reserved.