My last blog past came right after the IOC announced its recommendation to drop wrestling from the Olympics. I have been a fan of wrestling since I watched Dan Gable, Wayne Wells, and that legendary group of US wrestlers in the 1972 Olympics, and I became a wrestler myself that same year at the age of 12. I coached my sons and others for 15 years.
The time with my own sons was an inspiring father/son journey full of ups and downs, self-sacrifice and self-discipline, and monumental moments of heart and determination overcoming great odds in victory in between moments of great defeat. They had Olympic aspirations, and one of my sons has competed for years at the Olympic level.
I and my sons have participated in the world’s oldest sport, the purest form of sport, man against man, will against will, through hundreds and thousands of grueling hours of practice, back-breaking will-breaking work, forgoing food and drink to make weight for competition. We did these things for an earthly prize, a medal or trophy and the satisfaction of knowing that “I prevailed”.
But there is another story. There is something much greater than all this.
My son once won a tournament and received a medal on a ribbon. It was a kids’ tournament. The medal and the connecting links were cheap. We to a lake later that day, fishing, as we often did. He became bored with fishing and began twirling his medal in the air. It did not take long for the clasp holding the medal to break, sending sailing into the air, landing in the lake. He looked at me. I looked at him. There was nothing left of the medal signifying his victorious achievement hours earlier.
“Easy come easy go” did not really capture the moment. Wrestling victories are rarely easy. When they are easy, they are only easy because of the hours of hard work that go into practice. But, at the end of the day, the thrill of victory ends.
Medals and trophies will eventually fade, even we can manage to hold on to them. Wrestling was part of the ancient Olympics dating back to 700 BC (or so). I doubt any of the medals or trophies from the ancient Olympics have survived. If one was found, I doubt anyone would appreciate the thrill of victory experienced at the time it was won.
Wrestling and running are the world’s oldest sports. Paul talks about running when he said: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” (1 Cor. 9:24-25)
All of the effort that goes into competing in a sport at the highest levels can yield very satisfying victories, but every victory won in this life will fade away from memory over time. I am reminded to set my sights on things above. earthly trophies come to an end. The world may even come to an end. God and his promises will never fade away.