by the Rev. Rich Heinz
“Paul Hamm won't be going to the Beijing Olympics, after all,” reported Fox News on Monday. Hamm suffered a broken hand on May 22 at the national championships, and despite surgery his recovery will not be swift enough to compete. In his effort to accelerate recovery, Hamm also hurt his rotator cuff.
Newscasters speculate that this withdrawal will likely end Paul Hamm’s gymnastic career. This is quite a blow, both to Paul and his twin brother, Morgan (a fellow Olympic teammate), as well as the U.S. gymnastics team. It seems as if they – and Paul in particular – have some unfulfilled dreams.
Paul Hamm has worked hard for years. Before and after completing his degree at Ohio State, he has trained and prepared himself to receive Olympic medals. Yet now he himself will not enter the Beijing arena.
Moses seemed to have some unfulfilled dreams too. He worked hard for 40 years, wandering in the wilderness with the children of Israel. Under God’s direction, he had prepared a whole nation to receive the gift of the Promised Land. Yet he himself would not enter it.
But wait! Moses’ dreams were not unfulfilled! Yes, he dreamed of entering the Promised Land. Yes, he was prevented from entering Canaan. However, the Lord took him directly to the true Promised Land, bypassing the earthly shadow that the rest of the nation would enter with Joshua. His dreams were not unfulfilled – they were fully realized, and more!
This week, whether he realized it or not, Paul Hamm was given a gift. He will not have the gift of competing in Beijing. Nevertheless, there is a gift in the injured hand. Throughout his recovery, Paul will be shown his complete and utter dependence on the mercy of God. The Lord will display to him the greater gifts: the loving forgiveness and grace of Christ – undeserved, unearned, given freely.
We all can get caught up in thinking we deserve something because of the effort and time we have invested. There are few people who invest more than Olympians. Perhaps that is what makes Paul Hamm such a prime example of our inability to count on our own strength, knowledge, and perseverance. He did everything possible to realize his dream, but now he cannot attain it.
Jesus, however, is our great Champion. He has accomplished the victory of salvation and given that “gold medal” to us without any merit or worthiness in us. Like Paul Hamm, Jesus’ hands are scarred. Unlike Paul Hamm, Jesus’ wounds impact every one of us. Far more than one’s self, a brother, or a team, Christ’s injuries impact the world! His scars are comforting, eternal marks of love poured out for us. Those wounds are wondrous trophies for the King whose crown was not Olympic laurels, but twisted thorns.
Now, our Savior gives you Himself, as water and blood flow from His wounds. The injuries Jesus suffered not only fulfill your dreams, they exceed them! Life’s plans may change, and the Lord may gift you with suffering and injuries, but you will always have Holy Gifts coming from His hands that were wounded—for you!
The Rev. Rich Heinz is Pastor of Saint John’s Lutheran Church & School in Lanesville, Indiana. He serves as front page editor for HigherThings.org. Pastor Heinz is not much of a sports fanatic, but does enjoy viewing some gymnastics and swimming events every four years in the Summer Olympics.
Created: July 30th, 2008