I had never seen such a response all in my years of teaching. As I stood before my Sunday School class last weekend, there was hardly a dry eye. One woman commented to me afterwards that she couldn’t stop crying. What had sparked such a fire of emotion? It was three minutes of video footage.
But I remember seeing it live. It was the ’92 Barcelona Olympics, and the 400m semifinals were being run. Derek Redmond is the favorite to win. But halfway through, he goes down with a hamstring tear as if he is shot. In his confusion and shock, he gets up and hobbles onward, determined to keep going. Darting out of the stands, a stranger shoves security aside to get to Derek. It’s his father, and together they finish the race. The story line is inspirational enough. But what undoes everyone is the father shouldering Derek and letting him weep in his arms.
We long for so many things in this life…for love to fill us, for hope to cheer us, for adventure to engage us, for purpose to guide us, for beauty to arouse us, for freedom to enliven us. But that’s not what we really ache for. Those are the outcroppings of something even deeper, submerged, buried underneath our best attempts to manage or dismiss it. For as much as we love love, or hope for hope, or purpose to find purpose, our longings are not just commodities to trade on the market like gold and silver. We don’t just want them. We want the connection behind them, the hand that gives them. We want a father.
This is our deepest ache of all. Watching Redmond’s father is like an electric current, arcing into that deep shaft of desire. The longing erupts, and we are left quivering, pulsating with the current. And with it come the tears, for the disappointment here is both epidemic and tragic.
But what would it be like to feel that there is one who will run to us, console us, walk with us, and guide us to the finish line? It’s not just comfort. It’s life itself. Here our deepest ache finds its deepest relief. This is no pep talk or self-help therapy. This is the message of Jesus: “His father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20)
Check out the Redmond video and see it for yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZlXWp6vFdE