I’m a sucker for the Olympics. I love it ALL. I love the pageantry and the uniforms and the human interest stories. I love watching random events and I convinced a friend of mine that we absolutely could qualify for the modern Pentathlon if we trained hard enough. Note: the modern pentathlon involves fencing someone, and then jumping in a pool and swimming 200 meters, jumping on a horse that you just met 20 minutes before and then making it show jump, and then shooting a pistol at a target in between a 2 mile run. I mean, come on. You cannot make this stuff up. PSA–this fabulous event begins tomorrow. My DVR is shaking with excitement.
So I’m an absolutely raving fan. But when I really think about it, my joy isn’t about the sports, so much (except of course, modern pentathlon). Although I love seeing these athletes experience moments of glory, where the work and the sacrifice pay off in victory, that’s actually not what it’s all about for me either.
It’s the cloud that I love.
The “cloud” for me is the people surrounding the athletes. It’s the cloud that makes me get chills. It’s the cloud that makes my heart swell and find a new rhythm in my chest. It’s the cloud that brings me to tears.
It’s Aly Reisman’s parents, who I declare must be burning as much physical and emotional energy as their gymnast daughter. I’m exhausted watching them watch her, and it’s like I can feel those parent’s souls willing with all of their might for Aly to do her very best. You HAVE to watch this clip of their side-by-side reactions as she competes: http://www.nbcolympics.com/news/aly-raismans-all-around-routines-and-her-parents-reactions-side-side
And then there’s Kyle Chalmer’s grandparents, snugged up in their matching recliners, with their hearts bursting open for their grandson as he swims for the gold:
I eat this stuff up because it’s a visible picture of an invisible reality. We all need the cloud. We all need the cloud around us, the parents and the grandparents, the teachers and the coaches. We pine for that, for the days when our cloud was more visible–perhaps as kids or junior athletes or college students picking a major. We alternately want to be independent but also supported; all grown up but somehow still affirmed.
That’s why I love the places in the Bible that point us back to the cloud, that remind us that there is a spiritual olympic games that we are all in–it’s the invisible stuff of our life, the stuff of vulnerability and dedication and perseverance and character. It’s the stuff that we rarely hear audible cheers for. But just because we don’t hear with our ears doesn’t mean it isn’t real.
Therefore, says the author of Hebrews–since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders–let us run the race marked out for us.
The “therefore” matters. The “therefore” means your life matters and you are surrounded by cloud that goes before you and cheers you on. Hebrews mentions, too, the “ministering spirits” of the angels, sent to serve those who are running that race of salvation. All around you, an invisible arena of saints is cheering you on as you run that race marked out for you.
So for all those who are feeling weary today, the cloud is with you.
For the ones who aren’t sure they can put another dish in that dishwasher, another sock in that dryer or another smile on their face–the cloud is cheering for you.
For the ones scraping by, bogged down in worry and fear, thinking that pain is unique and no one can understand–oh, for you friend, the cloud is on the edge of their seats for you.
For those stepping out, terrified but determined, putting one foot in front of the other and taking those small but gigantic steps of faith–oh, the cloud is going wild for you.
Quiet down your protests and your doubts and listen. Shhhhh. Still those voices in your head and turn your listening inward, and listen intently and strain for it and there it is. Your cloud.
It’s your teachers and your coaches, it’s the grandma you never met that was praying for you before you were born. It’s your pastor’s pastor and the one before him, the one that lit a fire in a soul that became a leader. It’s the authors laboring in the quiet spaces, it’s the songwriters who let the Holy Spirit bring forth a new song. It’s the maintenance workers who listened in and the administrators that moved your application along. It’s this gigantic cloud of people that you’ve met and that you haven’t, and you are standing on their shoulders and they are cheering for you as you run that race.
So put that dish in the washer. Pick up that kid for another snuggle. Fix that glitch in the spreadsheet, show all the way up to your next meeting. Get up a little early tomorrow and listen for the cloud because they are cheering you on, brothers and sisters.
They cheer with gusto because they know that finish line comes up fast and they want to be the first to welcome you into the spacious place of eternity. And that, my friends, is your cloud.