With the Olympics just around the bend chronologically, and just over the hill on the map, I've been trying to figure out some kind of sport I might good enough at to stand on top of a podium in sweats, and get a little teary-eyed while our national anthem is played. Oh yeah, and actually win said event. Alas, I've never even strapped on a pair of down hill skis. Been cross-country skiing a time or two, but was faster walking...even through snow-drifts. I've been ice-skating, as well. But not well.
No, I'm not much of an athlete. Come from a long line of 'not much of an athletes', as a matter of fact. We tend to be better with our brains than our muscles. Beve's family? Just the opposite. Shoot, those boys--Beve and his brothers--they were profound athletes in my hometown. You have no idea. And their dad. The other day we were going through some old clippings from when Grampie played basketball at the University of Oregon in the 40s. Amazing articles about him, about his high school career in Bremerton, winning the state title in 1942, leaving Oregon to go fight in India/Burma during WWII (that's a story: He was too tall to be accepted by the army because they wouldn't have any uniforms to fit, so got a special dispensation and his mother had to make all his uniforms, and he had 4 special extra long cots made for him to sleep on, which we still have in our basement--they're actually really comfortable!).
My point is, those legal giants are good athletes. But compared to these Olympians, Beve and his family are just ordinary. And the difference is more than just talent. It's practice. It's dedication. Olympians train and train and train. It's all they do. They do it like it's their job. All day, all the time. Yes, it's talent, but it's also practice over and over and over.
I hesitate to confess this, for fear of how it will sound. But here goes: Sometimes in small groups, people are surprised that I know scripture as well as I do. But there's no secret to it. This knowing of the Word of God comes from practice. Over and over and over. Sometimes late at night when I can't sleep, for instance, I lie in bed with my eyes closed and try to think of a single verse from each chapter in the New Testament. Matthew 1 "Don't be afraid to take Mary as your wife." Matthew 2 "We saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him." Matthew 3 "But after me comes one whose sandals I am not worthy to carry." and so forth, through the Beatitudes, the whole Sermon on the Mount, the rest of the gospels, etc, until I fall asleep. The next night (or next sleepless night--there are 262 chapters in the NT so it can take a while, especially when I get to Romans through Colossians because I know/love all those books so well), I start where I left off. I get stuck, usually in the middle of Acts, which I admittedly haven't spent as much time in, but pick up again in Romans, and speed straight through Colossians, get bogged down a bit in the pastorals, chuckle a bit at Paul's sarcasm in Philemon, then push through until I get to 2 John. From there...well... not so good. Anyway, it's a great exercise, and keeps my sword ("The word of God is ...sharper than any two-edged sword"--Hebrews 4:12) sharp.
See, this is my sport. But so much more than a sport. The Word of God is living and active, the writer of Hebrews tells us. Active, which means that if we allow it to act upon our lives, it changes us. We go to the Bible to read, know, and understand God, which is true. But our lives must also be understood in light of the Word. We must allow Its Light to shine on us, to make sense of us. We must live beneath its light. See ourselves from that vantage point. From His--the Living Word's--vantage's point's. We are the object, He is the subject, even of our own lives.
But there's another reason why I go to such trouble to work on the Word of God so diligently, to "hide Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against Thee," as the Psalmist says. These are the words I want filling my brain. These words of eternal life, these red-letter, Kingdom-come, grace-filled, Bride-of-Christ Words are what I need to have rattling around in my brain to counter-act all the other dirty, filthy, lying words of the world that the enemy would have us believe every single day. I don't know about you, but I need to hold on with every single brain cell to the Word of God, so the more I can memorize, meditate, read, marinate myself in it, the better off I am.
Then, if the worst comes, and God help me, if the worst comes and I lose my mind, like my poor demented mother (or--and don't tell Beve, but maybe his dad, as well), maybe just maybe, the last words in my brain will be the best words of all--words of eternal life. As Peter said, "Lord, where else would we go? You have the words of eternal life."
Are you practicing your sport? As we used to call it, your sword drills?