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Running with joy

I probably watched the movie Chariots of Fire more than 50 times when I was a kid. I loved watching the protagonist Eric Liddell with his bright personality as he would run with joy, famously winning medals in the 1924 Summer Olympics. I remember running barefoot in the sand, happily flailing my arms in that Eric Liddell way.

The movie is also full of scenes of another character named Harold Abrahams—a man with a comparatively dark demeanour. I didn’t really understand Abrahams. He always seemed to be saying serious things. He worked hard and won races, but he never seemed very happy. It was during one of those serious conversations that he said something that stuck with me: “I will raise my eyes and look down that corridor; four feet wide, with ten lonely seconds to justify my whole existence. But will I?”

As I grew older, I began to understand how Abrahams felt. I started competing in sports, not for the fun of the game, but to beat others and improve my ranking. I started studying for tests, not for the joy of learning, but to get good scores and prove my intelligence. And with these changes, came insecurity—what if I failed? What if I couldn’t prove my worth?

And indeed, with time came failures. But it was because of these failures that I began to look away from myself and upwards towards the God of Eric Liddell, the one who renews our strength and gives us wings to soar. I’ve come to learn that I don’t need to prove my worth, because my worth is already given to me by God who made me and loves me.

Here in Japan, sports are often taken very seriously—so much so that it can be defining part of someone’s identity. And boy, do I identify with that!

Chances have been scarce in these COVID-19 times, but I’m excited about the possibility of getting to know people through sports in the future, and telling them about the God who renews our strength and lets us run with joy.

By Joseph, an OMF missionary



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