As the 2014 Winter Olympics begin Friday, February 7th in Sochi, Russia, I am reminded of the drama previous events have delivered. Whether it’s a human interest story, someone rising to the challenge of stiff competition or the 1980 United States Hockey Team who came out of no where to defeat the U.S.S.R. and earn a gold medal one game later. Thus, as viewers tune in from all over the world to watch next weekend, who will be the next star, who shocks their fellow competitors with one shining moment of gold.
Looking back on my not so allustrious athletic career, most of the sports I played in high school were held off sight in a relatively obscure locations like local golf courses and State Parks. The only sport I participated in with bleachers was swimming, my weakest talent by far. Yes, my 200 Individual Medal Relay did earn a bronze medal at the 1986 State Meet held at the University of Delaware’s pool, but my lack of speed cost us the gold. Yet, in one of my last high school races as a senior, God moved me to swim faster than I ever had before. Despite dabbling in butterfly, back and free style, the 100 yard breast was my strongest stroke and race.
Leading our arch rival Brandywine by a point heading into the final 2 events, I was facing a cross town swimmer who was 1 second faster on average throughout the season. Typically, the number 1 swimmer swam the inside lanes, a little faster than the 2 outside lanes due to the wake splashing back into swimmers. However, just before stepping on the starting block, their top breast stroker switched lanes to shadow me in lane 1. After 25 yards I was slightly behind, pulling even by the halfway mark. Since the bleachers were right on top of lane 1, I began to hear a roar from lane 2 as I approached the final turn. The noise of the crowd, filled me adrenaline, causing me to go faster and faster as I touched the final wall, finish line. As I looked up, the noise was deafening as members of the final relay applauded my victory by 4 seconds, shattering my PR by 3 seconds. In addition, our other swimmer passed both of Brandywine’s breast strokers in the final 5 yards to earn second and mathematically clinch the win.
As great as this experience felt, there is only one other shining moment that compares. While in college I was asked to help out at a lock-in by my high school swim coach who had become a youth pastor. During the festivities, I was drawn to a kid who was called Satan by his peers. Yeah, he had a mean streak inside of him that was pure evil, but the Holy Spirit moved me to minister to him. Layer by layer, like peeling an onion, God began to show me the defense mechanism that he had created to prevent his heart from being broken again. During an altar call late in the night, I led this young man to invite Jesus into his heart, Romans 10:9-10. Able to fulfill the words of James 5:19-20, I sensed another round of applause, this time from heaven. “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety nine righteous persons who do not repent,” Luke 15:7. May you experience multiple spiritual shining moments in not just during the Olympics, but throughout life.
by Jay Mankus