Fish Eat Fish (Part 2): Runners

Two are better than one,                                                                                                                    because they have a good reward for their toil.                                                                                       For if they fall One will lift up his fellow                                                                                                       But Woe to him who is alone when he falls                                                                                               And has not another to lift him up!                                                                                                  Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (ESV)

Finding Nemo features a clown fish named Marlin swimming from the Great Barrier Reef to Sydney Harbor in search of his lost son. He encounters threats along the way from bigger fish looking for a snack. Life in a Fish-Eat-Fish world is tough if you’re the little guy. Marlin is joined by Dory, a bright blue fish with short term memory loss. Despite her handicap, Dory selflessly helps Marlin to successfully reunite with his only son. Imagine sacrificial love in the world of fish.

Tuesday afternoon, August 16, Rio Olympics, women’s 5,000-meter semifinal heat. This was not a high profile race, not on prime time TV. With 5 laps to go there was a tangle in the pack and two runners fell hard on the blue track. Abbey D’Agostino from the USA was up first, reaching out to Nikki Hamblin of NZ. “Get up. Get up. We have to finish this.”

A few steps later Abbey again fell. This time it was Nikki helping her to her feet. Something bigger than the race was happening.

Abbey had injured cartilage in her right knee and completely torn the ACL. Her knee was unstable and incredibly painful, yet she continued around the track – four more laps. She ran a mile with no ACL!  Nikki was there waiting when Abbey crossed the finish line, wrapping her in a hug.

Without a doubt this is one of the lasting images from the Rio Olympics. Not just gold medals and world records, but a girl with a torn ACL coming in last, finishing the race, someone she barely knew helping her get back on her feet and welcoming her across the line.

I had the privilege to sit in a room with a group of deeply committed Christ followers a few weeks ago. We shared stories of urban church plants with uncertain futures, barely seedlings. A common theme expressed was a sense of inadequacy – the task is too large, too complex. My collection of time, energy and ability falls short.

That sense of inadequacy is crucial. It puts me in a position of dependence on God and my church family. When I am not enough, God is able to accomplish the impossible and receive all the glory. He can change situations and change me. A fundamental means by which God fills my individual gaps is through my brothers and sisters. First Corinthians chapter 12 presents a beautiful picture of the church as the body of Christ. ONE body composed of many members.

In this race, you and I are going to fall. I hope you are part of the Body, that someone will help you to your feet and encourage you to finish the race. You might extend that hand of encouragement to your brother and sister. Look ahead, down the track. There is a crowd at the finish line, some you know, some you’ve never met, waiting to hug and celebrate. May we say with Paul:

I have fought the good fight,

I have finished the race,

I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7 ESV)