I’ll admit it. I watched something I’m probably not supposed to have watched. Thursday evening I watched the end of the Ladies Freestyle Figure Skating in this year’s Winter Olympics (Turin, Italy). Patriotically, I had an interest in seeing America’s own Sasha Cohen as she went for Olympic gold. She entered the event narrowly in first place over the favorite from Russia, Irina Slutskaya. At the end of the evening, both Cohen and Slutskaya were on the medal stand together. However, neither won gold. Cohen won silver, and Slutskaya won bronze. They both fell during their 4-minute routine; the gold medal winner, Shizuka Arakawa, didn’t falter at all. The looks on those young ladies’ faces while they were on the medal stand were far more interesting than their performances. Arakawa’s expression was the epitome of elation; Cohen’s and Slutskaya’s demeanors said, “I could have been up there right now instead of down here.” They no doubt were asking, “what might have been?”
Unfortunately, it seems that “what might have been” was the U.S.A.’s official Olympic motto for these 2006 winter games. What would have happened if Michelle Kwan was healthy and skated in the place of Emily Hughes? What would have happened if Shani Davis, Chad Hedrick, and the rest of the speed skating team had decided to get along? What would have happened if Lindsey Jacobellis didn’t do a hot-shot jump as she was crossing the snowboarding finish line and lose the gold medal? What would have happened if Bode Miller would have put his skis where his mouth was?
I am proud to be an American; the Olympians who represent me make me feel blessed to live here. However, we can’t help but think about how close we came to doing exceptionally well this year. Although spiritual lessons abound with events like the Olympics, I think it’s helpful for us to notice one lesson together from all of this: we as Christians don’t need to look back and ask, “what might have been?”
Several Biblical personalities have come to the end of their lives and wondered how things might have been different if they only would have done what was right in the eyes of God. After losing his property, reputation, children, and wife, don’t you suppose that Lot wondered how things might have been different if he would have chosen a different place to live (Gen. 13:10-11; Gen. 19:1-38)? The Hebrews writer tells us of the regrets of Esau in 12:16-17, “that no one is […] unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.” Moses viewed the promised land from Mt. Pisgah and wondered what it would have been like if he would have only obeyed God and treated him as holy (Num. 27:12-14; Deut. 32:48-52). In the New Testament, Judas regretfully questioned his actions which led to the crucifixion of Jesus (Matt. 27:3-10). These examples remind us all of the importance of every decision we make. In many ways, our eternal destiny is at stake.
For those who have not yet become Christians, will you end up thinking about “what might have been” if you would have only been obedient to the gospel (Acts 24:24-27)? For us as Christians, we need to be aware of the possibility of giving in and falling away (Gal. 5:4). We can overcome that temptation by remembering our security in Christ (Gal. 5:5), and depending upon Him for strength (2 Tim. 4:17).
Paul is a perfect example of someone who was on the track of regretful living (Gal. 1:13-14) and changed his perspective through obedience and endurance in Christ (2 Tim. 4:6-8). May we follow his example in our lives and remain faithful to the high calling (which yields high rewards) in Christ (Phil. 3:14).
May we never spiritually ask, “what might have been?”