Sunday, February 9, 2014

A Lesson from Cross-Country Skiing

"view the land"
Deuteronomy 32:49

So, a few thoughts today on cross-country skiing.  It's one of my favorite events in the Winter Olympics.  It's an event we saw in person in Salt Lake City.  Well, actually, outside Salt Lake City, at the picturesque resort called Soldier Hollow.

At the time we purchased our tickets to the 2002 Games, cross-country seemed a bit like an "also-ran" sport to me.  Like jogging.  I didn't know much about it, but the tickets came in "packages" ~ so you got something like two tickets for ski jumping, two tickets for the women's slalom, two for a hockey game, and two for cross-country.  But with nearly every package, no matter what events were included, included tickets to cross-country.  I think it's simply because there are so many places for spectators to sit and stand.  They can accommodate a lot of people there.

{We didn't see any cross country at the Vancouver Olympics.  
But we did see bobsleigh, 
another sport that accommodates a lot of spectators.}

So I wasn't particularly excited about seeing cross-country in 2002, but I came to love it.  The scenery is so beautiful, and it's all around you.  And you aren't crowded with your fellow attendees, (unless you have seats in the bleachers at the start/finish line.) so you can choose your vantage point, and then try someplace else, and then go back to your first spot because you realized you could see better over there.  And as you move around, you're standing next to new people, all there for the same reason, but talking in any one of a number of languages that are different from yours.   Fascinating.  I still have the pin I exchanged with a man who was visiting from Finland.

Most of all, you are so close to the athletes when they zoom past where you are leaning against fence.  You feel, for a millisecond, that you are part of the action.  You can cheer them on, and really feel you are heard. 

photo credit: ~ We didn't own a digital camera back then

Or you can ring your cowbell, and know you are heard.  

But today's lesson about cross-country has to do with the length of the race.  It's long, relative to other Olympic pursuits.  Cross-country is about more than just speed; it's about endurance.  It's about pacing yourself, and working through aching lungs and fatigued muscles. 

photo credit:
Ever notice how many skiers collapse at the finish line, gasping for breath?

There's an important comparison here, to our lives.  Ups, downs, long straightaways with not enough rest... and trying not to bump or be bumped by others who are also just trying to make it through. 

But that's not the lesson.  The lesson is about the scenery.  'Cause it's gorgeous. 

photo credit:
The evergreen trees, some with snow still on them... the snow-covered mountains in the distance... hills and bushes... going from brilliant sun to dappled shade, and back again.  And blue sky and a few fluffy white clouds overhead. 

{I mean, sure, sometimes the days are cloudy, 
but still ~ a grey sky can be lovely, too.  
And you know the sun is still there!}

One of the commentators said today that cross-country skiers need three things to succeed:  an acceptance that pain is coming; the need to be prepared for that pain, and a desire to persevere through that pain.  I think we need the same approach to difficult times in our lives. 

But even more importantly, we need to look around and enjoy the view.  Yes, the work can be long and sometimes hard.  But He has provided us with beauty on every side. 

~ "Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name;
      Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness" ~
Psalm 29:2

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