That video gets me every time. I posted it to my Facebook timeline a few days ago, commenting that we should all have a daddy like Derek Redmond’s dad. One of the favorites to medal in the 400 meters at the 1992 Olympic Games, Redmond tore his hamstring halfway through his semi-final race. Clearly in pain, Redmond refused the stretcher-bearers and hobbled toward the finish, determined to complete the distance under his own power.
The man who comes to Redmond’s aid, despite attempts by security to deter him, is Derek’s father, Jim. In a touching act of solidarity and support, Jim helps his son get across the finish line. The part that chokes me up the most is the moment when Derek puts his head on his dad’s shoulder and weeps. His father responds by putting his son’s arm around him and they keep moving forward.
Now, I don’t wanna get all “Footprints in the Sand” on you, but that’s some touching stuff. Do you know why I think that video gets to me? It’s not because that’s the kind of relationship I want with my dad (I already have that), nor is it because it reminds me of the kind of relationship I have with God. No. It’s because it reminds me of the relationship I want to have with God, but feel like I don’t have.
That probably requires some explanation.
Much of my life I’ve grown up with a mental image of God that resembles a Cosmic Cop, at best. If I manage to mind my manners, do right by God and others, the Cosmic Cop will always be there in my time of need. If I’m bad, however, it’s only a matter of time before the Cosmic Cop shows up to dispense some sort of equalizing justice. In such a relationship, I only initiate communication when I need something and any contact initiated from the Cosmic Cop must mean something bad happened (or soon will). When was the last time that a cop came to your door or stopped you on the road to tell you something good?
At worst, though, my image of God is more like Tolkien’s Eye of Sauron. I imagine God searching my life and actions for the slightest bobble, always watching, always seeing, always knowing, never approving. Neither of these images do much to evoke worship and trust, do they?
So why write this? Because I think that there are some of you out there, dear readers, who have the same kinds of misgivings about your relationship with God. Maybe you, like me, watch that video and long for a relationship with God that looks like that. Instead, you find yourself more likely to ask the kind of questions in Scattered Trees’ song “I Swear to God”
“Please do not destroy us
I believe in You, I swear to God
Please do not destroy us …
Where are you, Jesus?
Where are you?”
Well, if that’s you, I just want you to know that I’m with you. I believe the images that have dominated my view of God are twisted. But knowing that, knowing that there’s more truth in Jim Redmond as a portrait of God than in the Eye of Sauron, does little to help me shake them.
Maybe we can help each other build better internal libraries of images and metaphors…
Because right now, I feel like I’m just hobbling toward the finish.
(Neat little footnote: Jim Redmond was selected to carry the Olympic torch during the relay for this summer’s games in London.)