Training for the Season of Lent

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I love the Olympics. In terms of pure sports, I believe the Olympic games offer the most compelling drama on so many different fronts. Take the opening ceremony, for instance. The hand-off of the Olympic Flame to two young, female hockey players—one from South Korea and one from North Korea—was awesome. Will that simple gesture reverse 70 years of hostility? By itself, no. But could that simple gesture change the trajectory of those two nations? We should all hope so.

I’m also struck by the “moment” that occurs in these games. That “moment” happens in every venue and it happens hundreds—even thousands—of times. A tiny, imperceptible slip on the ice—a slip that no one who is not a professional would even notice—is the difference between winning a medal and not. The difference in one one-hundredth of one point.

A downhill skier like Lindsay Vonn catapults down a mountain at 70 miles per hour. Her total run may take a minute and a half, but the difference between her winning run and the last place finisher may be less than 2 seconds. Imagine that. You have trained your whole life for that “moment” and you miss by fractions of a second. It seems almost unfair.

Except for the fact that real life often works this way, too. You and I face any number of “moments”—instances when we have to make a decision and we don’t have time to go think it over. The situation presents itself and we have to decide—right then. If you are like me then you also know that we sometimes come up a fraction of a second slow. Our decision is not “medal worthy”.

I am reminded that the Greek word for “sin” in the Bible is “omartia” which simply means “missing the mark”. Most of us tend to think of sin as missing the mark by a country mile—and maybe sometimes it is. But you can miss the mark by considerably less than a country mile and still miss the mark—like one one-hundredth of a point?

Do you think we Christians ought to consider training ourselves as diligently as Olympic athletes do? We are entering the season of Lent. It begins with Ash Wednesday and lasts through Easter. During this season Christians everywhere are encouraged to practice the “disciplines” of the church—prayer, fasting, study, worship, acts of mercy and justice. These are our training grounds.

I am of the opinion that the better we train in our disciplines, the more ready we will be when our “moments” occur.