“Look at that fast white boy!”
If Will had heard it once, he’d heard it a thousand times. He’d grown accustomed to winning, and his legs had earned him not only a full scholarship to Auburn, but several SEC championships as well. His favorite race was the 400, his best time 45.5. And now his legs had earned him a coveted place on a team representing his country.
They were huddled in a lobby at Chicago’s O’Hare airport, all wearing red, white and blue running suits, emblazoned on the back with ‘USA 1985 European Tour.’ Coach Lewis eyed them. "Listen up guys. I want to try to prepare you for what's ahead. You are about to begin the adventure of a life time. Not many Americans get to step foot behind the Iron Curtain.”
Will tried not to be distracted by the hoards of people shuffling through. He remembered hearing how Europeans love American athletes and imagined hearing ‘U – S – A’ chanted as he led across the finish line.
“We are an athletic team, however, we have a higher goal. I want you to focus. More than representing our great country, you are an ambassador for Christ.”
Several ‘Amens’ echoed around him. Shifting his weight, he noticed the pain in his hamstring again. This trip was about more than winning, but he couldn’t help picturing his mom’s face when he brought home a crystal trophy, like the ones in Coach’s office. His favorite was the clear blue one, trimmed in 18k gold swirls with tiny hand-painted porcelain flowers.
“You’ll get along fine the first two or three weeks, then you’ll begin to irritate each other, maybe even the whole group.” As Will listened, he tried not to look at Blake, who sported sprayed helmet hair and wore his suit a size too small, probably to show off his muscles. Blake seemed more interested in the girls who walked by than anything Coach had to say.
“I encourage you to pray. ‘Our battle is not against flesh and blood.’ Pray that God will open your eyes to see your own shortcomings rather than what annoys you in others.”
Nailed. Will felt the penetration of God’s eyes into his mind and heart as the coach's gaze met his. Besides pride, faultfinding was one of his greatest struggles. What business did he have even thinking God could use him? An ambassador for Christ? What a joke.
“Pray that God will consume you with bringing glory to Christ rather than to yourself.”
“And pray for protection. The airport in Prague could be particularly troublesome,” he nodded to Will. His heart skipped a beat, and he adjusted the weight of the bag Coach had given him.
An announcement sounded over the speaker, and Will boarded the plane with the others. He was glad to have a window seat where he could enjoy the sun both set and rise over the Atlantic. He tried to sleep, too, but it was no use. So, he prayed.
Please help me keep my priorities in line, Lord. You’ve made me fast. Help me run for Your glory, not my own. You are in control of this hamstring. I offer it to You. Please make it better, or cripple me altogether, whatever You see best. I only want to be used. Please forgive me for thinking I’m better than anybody else. Look past it, Father, and see Jesus.
He held his breath as the plane began its descent. Most crashes occur while landing. When the tires hit the runway he breathed again.
Plain, sad faces staring in the distance greeted him as he took his place in line. Uniformed guards walked around with machine guns. The ones behind the counter opened every bag, and all Will could think about was the extra one he held, the one filled with nothing but Bibles.
He held his breath again and watched the guard open his personal suitcase. The man reeked of body odor as he dug through Will’s stuff in search of contraband. Closing it, the official set it aside and grabbed the bag of Bibles, tossing it on through without even looking at it.
Will turned and whispered to Blake, “Did you see that?” His words were drowned out as the official barked, “Next!”
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