Friday, February 24, 2006


The only Olympic competition I enjoy watching on television is ice skating. It has always amazed me that anyone could glide so gracefully, turn sharply, spin so rapidly, stop on a dime and even dance while balanced on such a thin blade.

These competitors train for years in order to represent their countries and they deserve a lot of credit for giving their best performances under the minute scrutiny of the judges, audience, press and television cameras. They are not perfect, though. Mistakes are made and the one in the lead can suddenly lose the chance for the gold.

This happened last night. Sasha Cohen, who skated into the lead with such confidence and poise in the short program the other night, began the free skate competition with her confidence shaken from missing her jumps during her practice earlier. Competitors must be confident, never doubting. Sasha’s doubt showed in her eyes. She missed her first and her second jump, landing hard on the ice before continuing.

Astonishingly, she was able to refocus, and finished her routine with skill and zeal, and although she lost her first place lead to Japan’s Shizuka Arakawa, she came in second, winning the silver. That is quite an accomplishment, and when she was interviewed afterward, she said she was proud of herself for bouncing back and finishing the course.

One would think her country would be proud of Sasha Cohen too. After all, she won an Olympic silver medal for the United States. So how is she portrayed in this morning’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution (and possibly on the front page of other newspapers)? Instead of a photograph of a smiling winner on the podium, there is a very large picture of Sasha sprawled on the ice.

We all make mistakes, but do we want to be immortalized in our faults? No, we want to be forgiven and to move on. Life, especially spiritual life, is about change.

Too often we try to hinder change in others. We compartmentalize people into the way we knew them “when.” We might not like who they were, how they acted, or what they did, but as people change we need to change our perception of them. .Johnny used to be angry, rebellious, a liar, a spendthrift, a thief, a bully, easy to manipulate, easily challenged, cried at the drop of a hat, never took a shower except on alternate Thursdays, was lazy and refused to do his share of the chores, took drugs, or — But now he has matured, is happily married, devoted to his wife and children, a hard worker, saving for his family’s future, or —

Unfortunately, no matter what positive changes occur in Johnny’s life, there will be some who will always remember who he was and never acknowledge who he has become. I thank God that He does not remember me as I was, but allows me to change without blaring headlines: Jan fell down again. Watch her latest triple flip blunderfest video, in Technicolor and with Audioblast.

We are in training, representing God’s way of life. We will make mistakes in our walk, just as Sasha Cohen did in her skating routine. We have to do as she did. Rise to our feet, refocus, and resume our walk with confidence. But, unlike Sasha, who had to get back on her feet without assistance, we are not alone. As part of the Body of Christ, we should be helping each other when we fall, forgiving one another as God forgives us, and walking in the confidence that, although God expects our best efforts, He is not posting our scores for the world to read.

Some of our falls will be publicly embarrassing, but many will be private. We do not have television cameras zooming in for close-ups when we take a spill or announcers blaring out our secrets. Sasha endured to the end of the competition and received a silver medal. Those who follow Christ and endure to the end will receive their “gold medal” – eternity with God.

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