It’s Complete Surrender
08 February 2019
He was born in China to missionary parents. He spoke fluent Mandarin. He loved to run and represented Scotland in the Olympics. Yet at the peak of his athletic career, after winning an Olympic gold in the 400m, he disappeared from the radar and returned to work for God in China. He died in China in a prisoner of war camp from a brain tumour.
Who are we talking about? We remember him as the person who put God and his personal faith first. We remember him as a strong Christian who was actually preaching in church in Paris on the Sunday he refused to run in the Olympic 100m race that he was favoured to win. For him, his commitment to God took priority. A man of integrity. His story is immortalised in the movie, Chariots of Fire. With very little time remaining before the Olympics began, Eric trained and qualified for another race that was not scheduled on a Sunday. Eric knew his chance of winning the 400m Olympic race was slim because two of the runners had set world record times. In addition, on the day of the race, Eric was assigned the worst lane. Liddell was given a handwritten note by the American runner, Jackson Sholz, as they were lining up, which quoted 1 Samuel 2:30. The note read: ‘It says in the Old Book, “He that honors Me, I will honor.”’
When the starter’s pistol went off in the 1924 Paris Olympics 400m race, Liddell began running with his unusual running style: head tilted back, mouth wide open, body in full stretch, and feet moving faster than those of any other person in the world. Liddell finished 5m ahead of anyone else. He had won an Olympic Gold Medal in an event he wasn’t even supposed to run. Yet he did it in 47.6 seconds – a World and Olympic record. In fact it is the current women’s world record time today, nearly a century later.
After the race, Liddell said, “The secret of my success over the 400m is that I run the first 200m as fast as I can. Then, for the second 200m, with God’s help, I run faster.” That day, God honored Eric Liddell.
During the 2012 London Olympics, much was spoken of ‘Legacy’ and ‘Inspiring A Generation’. Liddell’s legacy is that he continues to inspire many a generation. And it’s not because of how he ran a race one day in 1924, but how he ran the race of life, how he focused on the eternal, on the things that really matter. The legacy of Eric Liddell continues to this day, all because he placed God first, above all else.
Eric Liddell’s last words were, “It’s complete surrender”. His last words were words of his faith in Christ. I wonder what legacy we are leaving behind? What do people say as they reflect on our own lives and the influence that we have? What do our children say about us? What example have we left for them to follow?
We cannot possibly stop children and adolescents from experiencing loss in life... so how can we be gentle with children and adolescents as they grieve their losses? How can we model grieving for children and adolescents? What losses haven’t we acknowledged ourselves? What loss was never acknowledged when we were children?
How can we acknowledge the loss and ALSO look for what can be gained in every change?
Though not an exhaustive list, children will benefit from:
• Hearing the truth
• Being included in grieving rituals
• Having role models who demonstrate healthy expressions of grief
• Being respected for their individual grief response
• Compassion and acceptance
• Permission to talk or not talk about the loss
• Being seen as capable of adapting to loss
As my time at Avondale School comes to an end I want to acknowledge the sadness I feel as I say goodbye to students and the sense of loss knowing that relationships have to come to an end. I am immensely grateful for the privilege and honour of being invited into each student’s world. I have tried my best to be a safe place and an advocate for them.
Dr David McClintock