We Methodists do like to think, but I’m one day back from the beach and Pastor Tom tackles the Trinity…Really?
I remember being taught that our minds couldn’t think two things at the same time. The teacher challenged us to try it. I still remember struggling to hold onto one image while introducing a different one. The best I could do was to leap from one thought to the other. Quickly, for sure, but never at the same time. It made my brain hurt.
So I experienced some of this same exasperation during Sunday worship, trying once again to wrap my mind around One God in Three Persons. Not sequential, not divided in thirds, but simultaneous. One Being who, when called upon in prayer, says “yes” in three voices all at once. (I like that thought anyway – not sure if it’s theologically accurate.)
But Tom helped me out here, or perhaps it was Jesus to the rescue, when he mentioned a relay. Tom did say God was not like that. Not one racer passing the baton to the next. But I immediately pictured the young, beautiful, powerful women racing to a new world record in the 4X100 meter relay. (Yes, the excitement was spoiled ahead of time by my social media feed but anyway…)
I imagined what it must have been like for those ladies, especially the one running the anchor leg. Now, I have never been too fast on my feet but I was decent swimmer in my heyday. So I was remembering the times when the swim meet was to be decided by the last relay. Each swimmer in turn would launch themselves into the pool and swim as fast as they possibly could. And each, heaving with effort, dragged themselves out and then screamed encouragement to the swimmers who followed. If the volume of our collective voices could impel them, it would. Everything was on the line, it seemed to our little summer swim relay, and the spirit of the three of us would bring that anchor leg home. Somehow I always swam faster in the relay than I ever did in an individual event.
So if was a bit distracted sitting there in the pew I was imagining that 100 meter champion in the final leg of the relay sprinting down the straight away toward the finish line. She was full of power and exerting herself with every ounce of strength. She is beauty in motion. But her effort is not just her own. She is absolutely bursting with the hopes and urgings of the three women who have run before her. We can’t see it, but carrying that baton she is more than she is.
And that just doesn’t add up, does it? But, even in my tiny world of summer swim club competition, I know it’s true. I’ve been there.
“On the day she qualified for the Olympic Games, she began to cry underneath her red, black and green scarf, cry for every little girl who was told not to run by her parents in Afghanistan and other Muslim countries. She cried because those girls would never know the joy of moving with the wind in the middle of a dead sprint.” ~ Mike Wise, Washington Post , Sat, Aug 4th 2012
Men in her country said bad things about her. Told her she was a disgrace to her faith. Confronted her where she trained. Still she ran. Because the only man whose opinion mattered to her was her father who told her, “Run. Run like the wind.”
Takmina will return home after the Olympics. Home to people who “will do bad things to her.” She could stay in Great Britain. Seek asylum abroad. But she won’t. She will return to her country, to those who call her names and threaten her, and face what lies ahead. She does not say they are wrong. Simply, she says. “Someday they may see that I am right.”
“Someone has to face this problem and I am the one to face it.”
Now THAT is courage.
What gives someone that kind of courage? What is so compelling about moving with the wind in a dead sprint that casts out fear? How can it be worth whatever comes?
Social change comes incrementally, Wise’s article noted. In many ways it is like the training of an athlete, who bit by bit and day by day, ekes out the progress which makes them stronger and faster. We, looking from the distance of many miles and many years of women’s equality, would like this change to happen in a moment. In the London Olympic moment. In the 100 meters moment. It won’t.
But today my eyes are pried open to the plight of women who have so little and fight for so much that I take totally in my stride. I pray for their safety upon returning. I give thanks for their courage. And I introduce them to hope that the world keeps watching, day by day in the 4 years ahead. May the little ones hear the call of the wind and run, for their country, not from it, and find joy.