Thursday, 2 August 2012

Faster, higher, stronger - and more beautiful

Evening, God.

Thankyou for today. It has been a day to remember; I've been at the Olympics.  They say it's a once in a lifetime experience to visit the Olympic Games in my home country and so I've been looking forward to it for so long. We saw the best swimmers in the world doing their thing today and we spent a few hours exploring the wonderful Olympic Park. 

London 2012
There were thousands and thousands of people there - and it felt as if every last one of them was in the aquatic centre shouting at the top of their voices when Rebecca Adlington or Michael Phelps appeared. The atmosphere was wonderful. The children had a rare opportunity to scream as loudly as they liked with total impunity (indeed, approval) and we were all there waving flags, eating wine gums and getting a little bit hoarse. 

The aquatic centre is an amazing feat of  engineering and the main stadium is beautifully photogenic close up. There are sculptures, bridges and different sporting arenas that are elegant and graceful and a monument to man's architectural achievement. Highly appropriate, really, in this sporting tournament to end all tournaments. I'm writing this watching a medal ceremony on the television and the commentator is speaking of honour and pride and the playing of a national anthem as a tribute to an athlete's prowess.

You know what? I loved it. I loved it all. The happy atmosphere, the marshals high-fiving the children on the way in, the beauty of the Park, the excellence of the athletes. But something caught my eye and it made me stop completely and look at things differently.

The planners of the Olympic Park knew what they were doing with the landscaping. Lots of green and lots of trees. A feeling of space and cleanliness and openness. And lots of flowers. 

What flowers. Someone had spent a fortune on wildflower seeds and used them liberally. A masterstroke of gardening; banks of wonderful colour that require no intricate tending and, presumably, will come up again next year. Orange and blue and purple and red and yellow and white stretching into the distance and enveloping the spectacular buildings... it was a breathtaking display. People were stopping to gaze and take photographs. It was by no means just me. 

But I noticed something and I have no earthly idea how many other people noticed it as well. Maybe some did. Within and beyond this monument to man was a monument to you. A greater one by far. This one is an achievement that man can't manage no matter how fast, or how high, or how strong. We sow a seed, we water it, but we need you to shine on it and make it grow. It's only you. Amid the world records and Olympic champions and the medals and multi-billion pound developments are growing beautiful wild flowers and that's something that we can't do. No matter how hard we train or how big our budget or how determined we are. 

I know it's only small. I know those flowers were so subtle. Dramatic in display, but individually tiny, but subtle is your thing. You never clobber us in the face with your glory; it's up to us to see it. It will be that way right up until that day when the heavens split open and every last one of us will kneel whether we want to or not. Subtle, gentle and beautiful.

You were there.
Once I'd seen it I saw so many other things. I looked up and saw the sun emerging from behind the clouds with wonderful effect. I saw the children dancing on the multi-coloured pavement with joy in their faces. I saw people holding hands and people laughing and it struck me how privileged we were to be there at all. How there can be no spectacle, and no joy, and no excitement or love without you.

You were there too, weren't you? You were watching the swimmers and the cyclists and the gymnasts and the boxers and the sailors and everyone.  You are not bound by the strange and idiosyncratic rules of ticket acquisition. You don't need a VISA card and you don't need to be ridiculously quick off the mark with a mouse when a ticket or two become available. You were watching them all. What did you make of it? 

More medals than most.
Did any one of those athletes pause to thank you for the miracle of their body? To give you the glory for the wonder of their sporting prowess? Did any of them bow down sometime in private and say, 'Lord, it's all from you - it's all for you?

I bet some did. I bet most didn't.  I bet most of them gloried in their muscled and streamlined bodies and felt overwhelming pride when they won. If they have any grace they thank their families, their trainers, their fans. 

Lord, not one of us would be here without you. Not one swimmer, runner, archer or fighter. No-one with exceptional lung capacity or stamina or suppleness or steadiness of hand. No-one a little bit overweight, or riding on a mobility scooter, or queuing for MacDonalds. Not a flower blooms if you don't will it. 

Lord God, thankyou. Thankyou for the spectacle and the skills you have given to these people who dedicate their lives to sporting excellence. Don't get me wrong - I love it. If I could get my hands on more tickets there are so many more events that I'd like to see. I take my hat off to Michael Phelps. All those gold medals? But you taught him to swim. It was you that gave him what he needs to win those medals. I love to watch these people who have worked so hard to create perfect form and peak physical fitness in the body that you gifted to them but I know that you don't love them any more than you love me, with my post-baby tummy and hefty thighs. I move more slowly and with so much less elegance, but you still think that I'm great. 

Champions of the future.
It's a demonstration of your power. Your creativity, that people come in all shapes and sizes. Some of them can win medal after medal and be the fastest or the best in the world in their arena and some have other gifts. Nobody gets a gold medal in your Kingdom except those of us who run the race without giving up and eventually cross the finish line. 

You know what? When I stand on the podium I want it to be in Heaven and because you're proud of me. My country is never going to watch me on the telly and cheer when I beat the best in the world at some sport or other, but if my God cheers me past that finish post and hands me a crown when I arrive, out of breath and wide-eyed, then I'll have done ok. 

I so want my children to see this for what it is. Yes, if they devote their lives to excellence in a field they might or might not find themselves on a podium somewhere while the national anthem plays, but it's more than sport. It's about knowing who they are as princesses in your kingdom. It's about understanding that the gifts that they have are priceless whether they're measurable in world records or in smiles or in pages written or people entering the Kingdom. It's about seeing things for what they really are.

It's about standing in the middle of the multi-billion pound Olympic complex and noticing the flowers.

Thankyou for showing me. I might have missed it, and I would have missed the point and maybe thought that the Olympics are about athletes or national pride or commerce or something.

Thankyou for showing me the flowers and trees and the clouds and the looks on people's faces and the wonder in my daughters' eyes as they revelled in the occasion. 

You are God Almighty. It's all because of you. You're the fastest and the highest and the strongest. Even if not everyone realises it, today was a celebration of you. 

1 comment:

  1. Oh, Helen, what a wonderful experience! We've been at the beach and watched the games every night. Your perspective is so refreshing in a society that glorifies people instead of God. I know He loves that you noticed and rejoiced in Him!


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