One of my least favorite events to watch at a track meet are the hurdles. I get nervous and worry for the athletes every time. In High School, many of the hurdlers barely clear the hurdle, sometimes knocking it so that it sways or falls and makes quite a noise in the process. I have also seen my share of hurdlers come to a crashing fall on the track. Most of the time, to my amazement, they get back up and finish the race. This week, while watching the Olympics, my heart sank as I watched Lolo Jones, our American gold medal favorite in the 100m hurdles, hit the 9th hurdle and fall to the ground. Though she finished the race, she fell to her knees at the finish line, knowing that all hopes of a medal were gone. She graciously answered interview questions immediately following, saying that it’s not enough to be the fastest, you have to clear all the hurdles along the way. Later, they showed her crying by herself, clearly grieving the loss.
So, I’ve been wondering, what does that do to a competitor psychologically when they bump into the hurdles? In High School it does not disqualify them from the race. In the Olympics, it does. Undoubtedly, however, it slows them down. Does it change their thinking? Does it instill fear or more determination to clear the next one? Does the crashing noise unnerve them and make it hard for them to concentrate? And what about those runners who are minding their own business, doing their best when suddenly someone crashes down next to them, or even into their lane?
What do the hurdles in my life do to me? Most of us don’t enter this "race" with any special qualifications. Most of us just do the best we can. Hurdles don’t disqualify me from living an abundant life, but they do slow me down when I hit them. Sometimes they serve as catalysts for a better attitude… the ‘I’ll do better next time’ syndrome, and sometimes they bring me to tears. As I think about it, even when I fall to the ground, I do get back up and keep going. Some times are harder than others, depending on the injury or the expectations. After all, "hope deferred makes the heart sick."
Which brings me to one more Olympic illustration. Both our Men’s and Women’s 4×100 relay team did not qualify for the finals because they dropped the baton. Both were favored to win. Though I did not see the men’s race, our women were in first place before missing the handoff and dropping the baton. Never before have the Americans not qualified for the finals in that event. History making. Heart stopping. Unbelievable. It got a HUGE reaction in our track-loving household!
In the end, I guess there’s not that much difference between seasoned athletes and regular life-livers. We run the best race we can. When it comes time to clear the hurdles, we gather as much strength as we can and usually make it over. I’m just thankful we’re not being timed and our every flaw is not recorded! As for the relay, I know I have a baton to pass on to my children. Any relay race reminds us that it doesn’t matter how well or how fast I run this race if my children do not "get it." We don’t just hand it off to them when we’re done with it. They must be in the race, running their best and reaching out to receive the handoff. They can run well themselves but if we miss the handoff, the rest does not matter much.
In the midst of the huge achievements, disappointments and drama of the Olympic games, there are life lessons to be learned. Many of the personal stories have been truly inspiring. Every athlete encourages us to do our best, pursue our dreams and make the most of every moment. We may not set world records but we can still win gold.
Clearing Hurdles With You,