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Help...I've Fallen and Can't Get Up!

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

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"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." – Sir Winston Churchill

As a kid, I remember watching the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. In case you’re wondering, yes, they were the Olympic Games that were forever marred by the slaying of 11 Israeli athletes by a Palestinian terrorist group.

Going into that year’s Olympics, one of the most anticipated events was the 1500-meter race. It featured Jim Ryun, an American, who was trying to better his silver medal performance from four years earlier. In those Games, he was done in by Mexico City’s high altitude, a bout with mononucleosis, and a world-class runner from Kenya named Kip Keino.

This time around, Ryun trained harder than ever, running 120 miles per week. Leading into the Olympics, he ran the third fastest mile ever, winning by an astounding 13 seconds. In other words, Jim Ryun was primed for victory.

However, with a lap and a half to go in the first qualifying race, Ryun tripped and fell, hitting his head on a railing and briefly losing consciousness. By the time Ryun regained his senses, he was in last place… and that’s exactly where he finished, despite his famous “kick” at the end.

Replays showed that Ryun was clearly tripped, but his appeal to be reinstated was denied. And so, Jim packed his bags and left Munich empty-handed.

“I was disappointed and angry,” Ryun said. “Angry at the officials as well as at myself. But right there in Munich, my wife and I made a promise to each other: We didn’t want our lives to end there.”

In a 2016 interview, Ryun tried to put everything in perspective. “Four decades later, I can say that Munich really was the beginning of our lives. We had become Christians that spring, and the challenge of Munich forced us to grow up very fast. We developed a whole new understanding of forgiveness.”

“I had to forgive myself – I could have run the race a little differently and not tried to weave through the field to position myself to sprint for home, but I didn’t. I had to forgive the official who rejected my petition. It was a process that took years as I began reading the Bible, attending Bible studies, and visiting with those who had gone through similar situations of learning to forgive. I learned that forgiveness is not a "one time, done that" act; it is a process of learning to accept God's sovereignty over all of life, viewing life and others from his perspective. It is a conscious decision to go forward and not live in the past.”

Since the 1972 Olympics, God has used Ryun’s faith and forgiveness in a powerful way. He and Anne started the Jim Ryun Running Camps, which are still going strong after 46 years. And yes, Jim was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives by his fellow Kansans in 1996, where he served his constituents for more than 10 years.

By getting back up after tripping and finishing the race, Jim Ryun demonstrated raw courage. And by forgiving himself and others, he demonstrated Christian maturity.

My friend, has life tripped you up? Get back on your feet and finish your race. Have you performed below your expectations and those of others? Forgive yourself and move on. God is not done with you yet. In fact, just like Jim Ryun, the best may be yet to come!

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7 (NKJV)

- Rev. Dale M. Glading, President

Editor’s Note: To read Jim Ryun’s candid interview in its entirety, visit https://www.vox.com/2016/7/13/12077672/olympics-jim-ryun-track

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