The Olympic motto, ‘Faster, Higher, Stronger’, is a pretty good one. Those simple three words conjure thoughts of sprinters shooting down the track with smoke coming off their running spikes, pole-vaulters twisting into the air as if gravity worked the other way, and weightlifters going red in the face as they lift the equal of seventy bags of shopping. Anyone who’s ever had a go at athletics will recognise that ‘faster, higher, stronger’ is the whole focus – pushing the human body to the apex of its performance, and then going beyond it.
Is this a good motto for life in general? Certainly there are many areas of our lives where pushing ourselves will reward us in the end. There are even times when people will grit their teeth spiritually, determined to summon a greater discipline or to reach out more keenly for God. Sometimes, though, I believe we have to pursue the opposite of the Olympic ideal.
For example, there are very few places in the Bible where anyone is urged to go faster for God. On the contrary, coming before him involves slowing down and putting our own capabilities in perspective. In Psalm 46 it is being still, not being fast, that is the way to know God. In the same way, the apostle Paul charges Christians to ‘be willing to associate with people of low position’, a challenge to anyone whose life is all about climbing ladders. Perhaps most surprising is the New Testament paradox that it is often when we are weak that we can do the most. The decisive event of the gospels is Jesus Christ at his weakest, held motionless by nails, exhausted from a Roman flogging, bleeding and asphyxiating on the cross. Bewilderingly, this is the most powerful moment of his ministry; this is where he does the most good for the world; this physical low point is a spiritual high point.
Perhaps (when the Olympics are over) we should try out ‘Slower, Lower, Weaker’ as a motto for a while. We might discover that slowing down for God’s sake, noticing the lowly in our communities, and trying to understand the power of weakness are things worth striving for.
Corin Child St John’s King’s Lynn