The Beve stayed up until after 2am this morning, watching the men's basketball team play Spain for Olympic Gold. This morning he woke me up to regale me with the highlights. I remember this, I thought. How fitting that the 'Redeem Team' would be playing Spain for the medal, when last time there was such fervor in our house about an Olympic hoops team, they were playing in Spain, called the Dream Team. I just walked into E's room to grab the mounted commemorative Dream Team sports card tryptic she keeps on her dresser. She was 7 and J was 5 during the Barcalona games and they sat in rapt attention through every basketball game of those Olympics. Wait, no, they didn't. They actually played out the games with the TV on the small basketball hoop that lived in our living room. They could take off from one end of the family room, race through the wide open archway between living and family rooms, stuffing the small basketball through the rim with great abandon. More than one adult who walked into our house was shocked by the 'court' in the living room, and our blase` attitude about the sometimes full-blown sweaty action with arms, legs and ball flying every which way.
When I was a child, one of my mother's cardinal rules was, "No playing with balls in the house." But Beve had fashioned a hoops from clothes hangers--they even had piecs cut from one of his mom's nylon stockings hanging as the nets--and he spent many rainy hours with them taped to both ends of a hallway, shooting tennis balls through them. So he was thrilled to buy the first, then the second, indoor hoop for our children. Also happy to play with them a time or two. My job was mostly to avoid flying feet as I carried folded clothes and other things down past them as they played. I'm pretty sure they knocked a laundry basket out of my hands a time or two...and I'm pretty sure I might have been less than nonchalant about that. But most of the time, I loved listening to them play, with their careful scoring, and competitiveness.
J, in particular, could play for hours. In fact, he couldn't actually watch a game on TV without shooting his own basketball at the same time. At five, J learned to count by keeping score and players' statistics, to read by reading the sports page, and listened better to broadcasters than he ever did to me (ok, so I'm exaggerating). So I loved that he played and played and played.
And I loved watching the Dream Team's unbridled joy at winning the gold medal--Magic Johnson's giant smile, Charles Barkley's boyish enthusiasm, even Larry Bird's understated grimace. But mostly I loved my children jumping all over the place, so excited like they'd won the gold themselves, like it was ever in doubt.
This is the image of the Olympics for me. That ordinary people--from 5 year olds to millionaires--get to share in it. It's the same this time too. Kobe singing the "Star-Spangled Banner," with gusto. Lebron making great promises and hamming it up. The entire team dedicating their gold-medal game to Doug Collins who was part of that Olympic Team that lost to the Soviets on the disputed call, and refused their medals. They ran their race with determination and great joy. And saw fulfillment.
Most of us are spectators of the Olympics. We didn't work out in the pool hour after hour, day after day, we didn't have to live in our sister's home while we practiced shooting for years at a time in hopes--but we get to share in it. When the decathelete finally finished the 1500 meter and fell onto his back, winning the most grueling of golds, we get to peek in at his joy and participate in it. We're my 5 year-old-son jumping around in front of the TV, and the multi-millionaire on the stand. We're all of them at once, because there's a gold medal at the end of our race. Not a silver, not a bronze, and certainly not that most dreaded of all, the fourth place finish. There's an eternal prize we're running for.
"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize." 1 Cor 9:24
"Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses (that's like you and me and my 5 year-old son watching the Olympics), let us throw off everything that hinders us and the sin that so easily entangles . And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross,despising the shame, and now is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:1-2
What is your race? Let's run with abandon, hope and great joy.