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Falling short

The sports world has given us a lot to think about in recent weeks. First, we’ve seen the best of who we can be. I’m not a winter sports enthusiast, but I’ve been captivated by the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, British Columbia. I love to watch the competition and see athletes who’ve trained so long and so hard do their very best.  Sometimes they win a medal, and sometimes they don’t. Regardless, they teach us that focus, practice, and more practice are keys to fulfilling our dreams and finding our passion in life.

I’ve been moved by the stories of athletes who’ve overcome injuries and obstacles to get to the Olympics and compete for the love of their sport and their country. U.S. alpine skier Bode Miller won his first gold medal in the men’s super combined this year after competing in 2002 and 2006. U.S. skier Lindsey Vonn won gold in the women’s downhill after dealing with a leg injury. Many of the athletes and their families from around the world have made sacrifices just to get to the Olympic Games.

For all of the joy of the 2010 Olympics, another story from the sports world challenges us to look at ourselves for the ways we fall short of being our best. It was late last year when golfer Tiger Woods was found to have had extra-marital affairs. In a speech last week, Woods made a public confession of his behavior and public apology to his wife, family, and fans. He claimed full responsibility for his actions.

Here are some of his words: “I stopped living by the core values that I was taught to believe in. I knew my actions were wrong, but I convinced myself that normal rules didn’t apply. I never thought about who I was hurting. Instead, I thought only about myself. I ran straight through the boundaries that a married couple should live by. I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to. I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled. Thanks to money and fame, I didn’t have to go far to find them.”

“I was wrong. I was foolish. I don’t get to play by different rules. The same boundaries that apply to everyone apply to me. I brought this shame on myself. I hurt my wife, my kids, my mother, my wife’s family, my friends, my foundation and kids all around the world who admired me.”

It’s easy for us to point fingers at Woods and focus on his terrible behavior, but each of us has sin in our lives.  Woods’ sin is public because of his fame and fortune, but we stand in need of forgiveness just as much as he does. Perhaps our sin isn’t the same as his, but anything that separates us from God is sin. Anything that keeps us from being what God intends for us to be is sin.

And it’s interesting that we deal with these examples of the best and the worst just as we’re entering into the season of Lent (the 40 days before Easter, not counting Sundays).  This is time to hold up a mirror to our lives and see how we’re doing according to God’s call on us. Are we following God or going our own way? Have we strayed from what God calls us to be as spouses, parents, children, friends, and neighbors? Are we willing to admit to God, to ourselves, and to others that we have messed up? Are we ready to seek true forgiveness?

When we put our trust in God through Jesus Christ, we have hope to overcome whatever it is that separates us from God. Jesus was very clear about his purpose: “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32).  And Paul, who struggled with his own sin, offered great hope: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5: 8). Friends, there is Good News for us, even when we struggle: we are loved, cared for, and redeemed by God when we offer God all that we are.

So, enjoy these Olympics and the moments of triumph that we see there. And, when you see people struggle, whether it’s someone famous or not, remember that we all stand in need of God’s grace and forgiveness. God calls us to be our best every day!

If you don’t have a church home, join us on Sunday mornings at Cedar Springs UMC.  If you’ve been away from church for a while, consider getting back to church. I invite you to worship with us this Sunday morning at 10:00 a.m. or 11:30 a.m. We share the warmth and hope of Jesus Christ!

Pastor Mary Ivanov
Cedar Springs United Methodist
140 S. Main, Cedar Springs

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