The Olympic value I am writing about today is also one of the four paralympic values – inspiration.
In an interview on the BBC before the gymnastics horizontal bar final, British gymnast Sam Oldham expressed how he hoped that Britain’s historic successes in the event would “inspire a new generation” of British gymnasts. For each of the events in the Olympic Games, the athlete’s passion for their sports has been clear. But notably, those events where significantly more medals have been achieved than is expected have been met with particular jubilation, and a sense of hope that it will inspire more youngsters in Britain to excel in particular sports.
Inspiration is an amazing quality. It is the opposite of under confidence – it starts with belief, and hope in an ambition or a goal that can be achieved. But it is more than just a vague hope or dream that “I would like to have been good at that sport”. It is an ambition of someone who has a vision that they can achieve extraordinary success in an event that leads them to undertake strenuous training programmes, pushing themselves to the limits of their strength and ability. It leads to the tenacity to keep going when things go wrong, the willingness to make sacrifices of time, career or other ambitions in order to enable the visualized goal to become a reality.
Sadly, for some athletes, these sacrifices and dreams do not come to fruition as injuries and disappointments at the last minute bring the dream to an end. But the possibility of failure does not deter those who are inspired to aim for their dreams from giving them everything they have got. I remember a poster of a rock climber my sister used to own. He is ascended half way up a rock face with no ropes – a scary position to be in – but the caption was “don’t let your fears get in the way of your dreams.”
What is it that inspires us? What is our ambition, be it large or small, that we want to achieve? Perhaps we have a desire to excel in a particular sport, or in music, or in something that we love. Perhaps it is a humanitarian cause – a desire for justice. Perhaps it is a project which we believe will bring tremendous joy to others around us.
I believe that God gives us all gifts. 1 Corinthians says of Christians:
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues.
There are many, many gifts God generously gives all of us – not just teaching and healing, but gifts of diligence, sporting and musical gifts; character qualities of kindness and compassion, and many other gifts. God can guide Christians to use these gifts, and through prayer and the power of his Spirit enables us to work to use those gifts.
I also believe that God can inspire us to reach beyond what we believe we can do by ourselves, for his glory. Saint Paul recognized the strength that God gave him to endure the trials and hardship he faced, when he wrote: “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:11)
So inspiration is about having dreams, and believing that those dreams can become a reality. Christians have the surest hope of all, in that we believe in the certain hope and future of knowing Jesus for ever that was made definite to us through his resurrection. So it is good for everyone to have dreams – to be inspired to achieve what seems almost impossible.