THE GOAL: TO FINISH THE RACE
By DANNY MINTON
By 1926 Henry Robert “Bobby” Pearce was one of the worlds greatest scullers. At the age of 21, he had won the Australian Single Scull Championship with his eyes set on going to the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam.
Johnny Weissmuller, known later for his role as Tarzan, won two gold medals in swimming. The 400-meter track appeared, setting the standard for Olympiads to come. For the first time, the Olympic Torch would be lit at the stadium to begin the games.
Previous games had their heroes including Jim Thorpe in 1912 and Erick Liddell in 1924. Later games would produce legends such as Babe Didrikson in 1932 and Jesse Owens who stole the show in 1936. But in the 1928 Olympics, the hero award would go to a most unlikely candidate, Bobby Pearce.
It happened in the quarterfinal race against Frenchman Victor Savrin. Pearce was favored to win the gold medal when a most unlikely event occurred. In his words, as he recounted the event, “I had beaten a German and a Dane in earlier heats, and I was racing a Frenchman when I heard wild roars from the crowd along the bank of the canal. I could see some spectators vigorously pointing to something behind me, in my path. I peeked over one shoulder and saw something I didn’t like, for a family of ducks in single file was swimming slowly from shore to shore. It’s funny now, but it wasn’t at the time for I had to lean on my oars and wait for a clear course, and all the while my opponent was pulling away to a five-length lead.”
After the ducks had safely passed Pearce did what by any standard was a feat few men could accomplish. From a standstill, in the middle of the race, he began to row and by the end of the race had not only caught up with Savrin but passed him by a considerable amount on his way to gold medal a few days later.
There are times in life when things bring us to a complete halt. Times when we have more important issues that jump in front of us and keep us from our goals. Many times we simply give up and quit. Other times we keep going, but without the enthusiasm, we had in the beginning.
The easy thing is to give up. The easy thing is to develop the “loser’s limp.” You know, you’ve seen it. A runner is in a race and knowing he’s going to get badly beaten, pulls up, grabs the back of his thigh and hobbles to the side. People feel sorry for him and applaud him as he limps to the infield and lies down in “pain.” But he’s not really hurt. It was all a show. He did it to save face, to keep from being embarrassed for not fulfilling his goal to win.
Jesus said, “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.” Paul wrote, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race…” That’s the goal, to finish the race.
I heard the story of some people watching the Special Olympics 25-meter run. It was slow, but the crowd watched as the competitors one by one crossed the finish line. Then far back there was one more. A young girl. A young woman on crutches is slowly inching her way toward the finish. As the crowd watched, she slowly made her way to her goal which was to finish the race. She won, not because she came in first place, but simply because she accomplished what she set out to do; to cross the finish line.
One of these days we will all have to stop and wait for the ducks to cross. But we should never let that keep us from finishing with all our might the race that God has set before us.
“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”
Paul – Acts 20:24
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ