I am not an avid television watcher; the TV is rarely on in our home. However, this month it will be on non-stop all day. Why? The Olympics. I love watching the Olympics! I enjoy watching the athletes who have spent hours training to perform in a sporting event they have dreamed of for years.
I make a night of watching the opening ceremony. Not only are the performances a creative masterpiece, but I love seeing the athletes walking into the arena carrying their flags with pride. The joy evident on every single one of their faces is priceless.
Every athlete has worked hard, dedicating years to perfect their skills. And here they are, at the greatest international sporting competition, ready to give it their all. When they are walking into that arena on the first night, they have no idea what the days ahead will hold for them. But they are filled with eagerness, excitement, and hope of a medal. There is a particular joy set before them and they want to attain it.
Joy is my one word for 2018, so I have spent some time reading and studying different verses on joy. In Hebrews 12:2, we are told that Jesus, too, had joy set before him, and because of this joy, he chose to endure the cross. It is so easy to glance over this passage, as the previous verses are more often cited. The joy set before Jesus is the joy of our redemption– yours and mine. I have always known that Jesus died to save me from my sins, but the fact that it gave him joy was new to me.
In Michigan where I live, we have an abundance of indoor ice skating rinks. Several figure-skating Olympic finalists spend their days at these nearby rinks, practicing their routines. Recently my kids and I went to an open skate and spent some time on the ice. When we finished, we went and watched what was happening at the other rink in the arena. It was astonishing to watch these elitists practice their craft. Their flawless routines were breathtaking. I could have sat there for hours.
The rink we were at houses not only US teams. Teams from South Korea, the Czech Republic, Great Britain, and the Ukraine practice there as well. In a recent interview with the local news, some of these athletes said that sharing the ice with their competitors pushes them to train harder. Here they are–Olympic athletes hopeful of a gold medal, and they are supporting and pushing their opponents to do their best.
Jesus, Olympic athletes, all of us. We all have joy set before us. We are all in pursuit of something. What are you dedicating hours and years to accomplish? What is the joy that is set before you? In the process of reaching your joy, are you spurring on someone else to reach their joy?
Photograph © Rod Long, used with permission