by Laura Priebe
In the winter of 2014, Nick Goepper became a household name in my neck of the woods. He grew up maybe 10 minutes from us, skied the same hills we did at Perfect North, and there he was on the podium in Sochi, a bronze medal winner at age 19.
Now, 4 years later, signs all over town broadcast our good wishes – “Good Luck, Nick!” And there he was on the local and national news, talking about how after the Sochi games, he slid into what is called “post-Olympic depression.” He lost himself in alcohol, parties and even considered suicide.
His family recognized the signs, and after entering rehab, he emerged with some of the sparkle back in his eyes. Not only did he regain the spring in his step, he regained his love for the sport, a sport which sends him flying, flipping and turning above a jump, gloved hands grabbing his skis.
And on Sunday, he stood on the podium again, this time with a silver medal around his neck. (Click on the picture below to read more of Nick’s story).
And then there’s that other guy, Pita Taufatofua, who marched shirtless in the opening ceremony in Peyong Chang, where it was 32 degrees. Pita is from from Tongo, an island nation in the Pacific.
He had trained for 20 years to compete as a martial artist in Rio, and he wanted another challenge. He chose cross country skiing, what many say is the hardest sport in the winter gamess, and he trained for 1 year. He had two goals, to not hit a tree, and to finish before the lights went out. After finishing 114th out of 116, he stood by to welcome the athletes behind him. Then he addressed the next generation. “I finished. Now you guys come and finish better than I did.” (Click on the picture below to read more).
What do these two athletes have in common? Besides giving us great stories, they inspire us. Nick’s story tells us that no one, not even elite athletes , are immune to discouragement. His strategy this time is to tell his story and reach out to others. Pita’s story reminds us that every achievement should be celebrated.
When I think of these two guys, I think of Hebrews 12:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders us and the sin that so easily entangles us. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.
The great cloud of witnesses. Those we can see in front of us and those in our memories.
EVERYTHING that hinders us.
Sin DOES so easily entangle us, ALL of us.
Perseverance. The quality that does not shrink from a hard task.
The race marked out for US, our OWN race. Whether it’s walking for 5 minutes around the house, or training for hours a day, we each have our own personal races.
And it’s not the podium we fix our eyes on, it’s our Savior. That is what helps us not grow weary and lose heart (v. 3).
Jesus is the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.
Like Nick and like Pita, how can we encourage one another in this “race” of our faith life?
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