CHRISTIAN VIEWPOINT: Don’t race through life and miss the important stuff – perfect lesson as Olympic Games get under way
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“When I’m running, I don’t have a body: I am my body,” says Lili DeLisle.
“When I’m running fast, I feel free.”
Eric Liddell, who won gold in the 400m at the 1924 Olympics experienced the same athletic-track freedom: “God made me fast and nothing God does is without a reason.”
The Race, a children’s novel by Roy Peachey, has been published by Cranachan to coincide with this year’s Olympic Games, writes John Dempster.
It interweaves two stories. Lili is a young athlete adopted as a toddler from a foster home in her native China by a British couple. And Eric is the famous athlete, born in China to Scottish missionary parents, whom Lili researches for a school project.
I loved the book’s brilliant storytelling, its vivid description of family and school life, its larger-than-life characters, its realistic take on kindness and love in action, and its passion for sport.
And how refreshing to see realistic Christian characters in mainstream children’s fiction. Christian faith lay at the core of Liddell’s identity, and is an integral part of Lili’s family life.
Parallels are drawn between Eric and Lili’s attitude to Sunday sport. Lili’s family accompany her around the country on weekends to athletic meetings, but always find a church to attend so that they “don’t squeeze God out,” but “give him time.”
Lili’s dad tells her the important thing is to “pay attention to what really matters,” leaving her to decide what that is. Might she discover there are things in life even more important than winning races?
In contrast Eric refused to run on Sundays by reason of his faith, and so missed the Olympic heats for the 100m, the length he specialised in. But might there be circumstances where a greater principle would lead Eric to break this life-long rule?
The Race also examines how its characters react when really bad stuff happens.
Eric Liddell followed in his parents’ footsteps, working in China as a missionary. He was confined in 1943 in a Japanese POW camp where he eventually died from a brain tumour in 1945. Another Christian prisoner shared old words with Eric which so encouraged him, and Lili too when she read them: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”
As we immerse ourselves in this gripping story of two lives, we realise that “the race” is a metaphor for life, and specifically for life as a Christian. It’s a metaphor which challenges us to persevere even in hard times, to find that freedom which comes from abandoning ourselves to our life’s purpose, “paying attention to what really matters” and believing that, in the end “all will be well.”