The stone the builders rejected

Thanks to Netflix, I just watched “Eddie the Eagle,” the 2016 movie about Eddie Edwards, who competed for Great Britain in the Calgary Olympics in 1988. This may be one of the purest feel-good movies ever made.

From the time he was a young boy, Eddie dreamed of being an Olympic athlete. The problem was, he had no athletic ability. But Eddie was undeterred. When he was rejected for the British Downhill Team, Eddie spotted his chance. Great Britain had not sent a ski-jumper to the Olympics in over 50 years. Eddie realized that if he could learn the sport, and meet the minimum qualifications (which were low, since no sane person would risk their life on something so dangerous), the team would have to take him. Through sheer force of will, unbelievable courage, and the support of his parents (who spent all their savings so he could train), Eddie made the team.

He finished last out of 73 ski-jumpers at Calgary, but his improbable story inspired millions around the world.

One British writer said, “Not that everybody loved him. Many people at Calgary were critical of the way a loser was being lauded. What they didn’t appreciate was his sacrifice, his bravery, and his determination to improve. The manner, in short, in which he fulfilled the very ethical purpose of the Olympic Games. Edwards epitomized the moral value of trying even if success is impossible. He was, in fact, the last of the great amateurs; we will never see his like again.”

I think the reason we love stories about underdogs is that we were created by a God who chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. Jesus is the “stone the builders rejected.” It’s when we lift up the least that we may be most like the Savior.

Identity Crisis

Last week, when American Ryan Murphy won the Olympic gold medal in the 100 meter backstroke, NBC showed pictures of a book that he made for his mother when he was 8, titled “My Swimming Life.”  He drew a picture of himself doing the backstroke and wrote, “I hope my swimming life continues and I become an Olympian when I grow up. I hope I will break the world records. I want to be the best swimmer in the world.”

We love stories like that.

The same night, David Boudia and Steele Johnson won the silver medal in synchronized diving. The reporter asked David Boudia, “What does it mean to come out and medal here in the synchro event?”

David Boudia said, “I just think the past week, there’s just been an enormous amount of pressure, and I’ve felt it. You know, it’s just an identity crisis.  When my mind is on this, thinking I’m defined by this, then my mind goes crazy, but we both know our identity is in Christ.

The reporter then asked Steele Johnson, “Well, Steele, your first ever Olympic event, how were you able to maintain your composure so well?”

Steele Johnson, “I think the way David just described it was flawless. The fact that I was going into this event knowing that my identity is rooted in Christ and not the result of this competition, it just gave me peace. It gave me ease, and it let me enjoy the contest. If something went great, I was happy. If something didn’t go great, I could still find joy because I’m at the Olympics competing with the best person, the best mentor, just one of the best people to be around.

“So, God’s given us a cool opportunity, and I’m glad I could’ve come away with an Olympic silver medal in my first ever event.”

Boudia/Steele had a completely different type of motivation.

It allowed them to find joy whether they won or not.

And their joy will last forever.