I watched a young boy struggling with a load of firewood today. He dropped it several times and spilled the pieces. Then, he just sat for a while with his head down. An older man came by and saw him, picked up the pieces of wood and motioned for the boy to get up. Neither man nor boy spoke a single word while I watched. The boy got up, the older man put the wood on the boy’s head, reached down and took his hand and and the two of them walked off, leaving me with a smile on my face. Believe it or not, it made me think of the Barcelona Olympics. Really. It’s not about how fast you get there, it’s about not letting obstacles get you down.
Twenty-five years ago at the Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain, young Derek Redmond made history. Oh, he didn’t win a gold medal while representing his country (Britain). In fact, not only did he not win a single medal, he was disqualified from the race that made him famous—the 4x400 relay. And to be fair, it wasn’t even Derek himself that brought the crowd of 65,000 to their feet in a standing ovation you can still see and experience on YouTube. Not that Derek wasn’t brave or that his courage was not on display--for it was. What really made history that fateful day was his father’s rushing to help him. You see, Derek fell about 250 meters from the finish with a torn hamstring. Most would have stayed where they fell; I sure would have. That kind of pain is horrible to endure, but Derek struggled to his feet, and, limping terribly, he hobbled towards the finish line. Derek’s father rushed from the stands, pushed his way through considerable security and got out onto the track. He put his arm around his son and said, “You don’t have to do this.” The son insisted that he did indeed have to do this. So, with the father helping him to stand and walk, the two of them made their way to the finish line. Derek said to his father, “Get me to lane five and let me go.” The elder Redmond did just that and that allowed his son to limp across the finish line on his own. With 65,000 fans from all over the world on their feet and cheering, Derek Redmond crossed the finish line and was immediately disqualified. That didn’t matter, not to the fans and not to Derek and not to his father. What mattered was that Derek was determined to finish the race (remember Paul’s words in Corinthians?) and that he was able to finish because his father was there when he needed him.
What kind of love makes a father help an injured son to his feet—not to get to a hospital—so that the son, in spite of the excruciating pain, could finish the race that he had started? Answer: a damned good one. To watch your son limp in pain with tears streaming down his face, that is the kind of love that God, our Father has for us. We just have to ask and He will break through whatever obstacles exist to help us in the ways we want. Our Father loves us so much, He will allow us to suffer in order to succeed, if that is what we truly desire. The power is not in the one asking through prayer, the power is in the one listening and responding. During times of strife, anger, and anxiety, remember Derek Redmond and his father. Virtually no one remembers who won that race that fateful day in 1992 in Barcelona, but there are millions who remember the man who finished dead last. And the last shall be first.
There are many recordings of this event on YouTube but this is the one I recommend you watch (and if you’re like me, you will need a handkerchief). This is just four minutes long, but it might change your life.