Last summer, I spent much of the first week in August in Louisville watching teenagers compete at an incredibly high level. What they proved to be capable of, while being so young, is mind blowing. Seeing their focus and their ability to deliver in the moment was so inspirational. Oh, and I'm not talking about Fine Arts.
Everywhere I went TVs were tuned in to the Summer Olympics. Many were captivated by the success of teenagers like 16-year old Gabby Douglas and 17-year old Missy Franklin. The sacrifice that an Olympian makes to achieve their dream is amazing.
The juxtaposition of the Summer Olympics and the National Fine Arts Festival raised an important question in my mind. Why? Why do Olympians do what they do? Why do our students do what they do?
The film, Chariots of Fire, is based on the true story of two track & field Olympians. They both competed in the 1924 Summer Olympics. Eric Liddle was from Scotland and was a deeply committed Christian. He even turned down the opportunity to run in a race he qualified for because it was held on a Sunday.
When he was asked why he runs, he responded, "God made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure."
The other runner, Harold Abrahams, from England, was asked the exact same question. His response was quite different "I run because when that gun goes off, I know I have 10 seconds to justify my existence."
Eric Liddle had learned that finding pleasure in God and believing that God finds pleasure in us is the only way to live free. In doing so he surrendered his dreams and even his life for the cause of Christ. Liddle went on to be a missionary to China and he died at the age of 43 from an inoperable brain tumor. His last words are recorded to have been: "It's complete surrender."
On the other hand, Harold Abraham's answer reveals the crushing pressure and bondage that comes from using temporary things and external efforts to try and bring meaning and purpose to our lives; whether they're gold medals or superiors.
My point is this: if your students think like Harold Abrahams did: that on a stage or on a score sheet they can justify their existence by doing well, then they have the wrong motivation. Use the Gospel to repeatedly remind teenagers that they are perfectly loved and completely accepted because of Jesus and that they are MORE than their ability to sing or act or draw or write or preach...or swim the 100m Butterfly.
Be sure to follow David on Twitter! @DavidHertweck