This week's 'thought' comes to you from a book entitled, "Finish Strong" by Dan Green.
It is a book of true stories about people who have overcome immense obstacles, through faith, and have "finished strong." I found this entry particularly inspiring. I offer it to you with the hope that it might inspire you in the same way. Enjoy.
A Spirit Forged in Steel
"On June 23, 1940, Wilma Glodean Rudolph was born prematurely, weighing only four and a half pounds. Wilma was the twentieth of Ed and Blanche Rudolph's twenty-two children. The Rudolph's were African Americans living in a time of segregation. Since the local hospital was for whites only, and since the Rudolph's had little money, Mrs. Rudolph was forced to care for Wilma herself. The early years were rough. Wilma's mother nursed her through one illness after another -- measles, mumps, scarlet fever, chicken pox, and double pneumonia.
A few years after Wilma's birth, her parents discovered that her left leg and foot were not developing normally and, consequently, were becoming deformed. Doctors told Blanche that Wilma had polio, and that she would have to wear steel braces on her legs. Refusing to accept this diagnosis, Mrs. Rudolph set out to find a cure. She discovered that Wilma could receive treatment at Meharry Hospital in Nashville.
The Rudolphs also relied on their faith in God, the Great Physician. When young Wilma would ask if she would ever walk, her parents pointed her to her good God: "Honey, you only have to believe. You have to trust in God because with God all things are possible" (Luke 1:37).
For the next two years, Mrs. Rudolph drove Wilma fifty miles each way to physical therapy appointments. Eventually, the hospital staff taught Mrs. Rudolph how to do the exercises at home. Everyone in the family worked with Wilma, providing her with encouragement to be strong and get better. Thanks to the patience, support, effort, and the love she received from her family, at the age of twelve Wilma could walk normally without the assistance of crutches, braces, or corrective shoes.
Having spent a great deal of her life limited by illnesses, Wilma felt a freedom she had never felt before. It was then that Wilma decided to become an athlete. She chose to pursue basketball first, just as her older sister had. For three years she rode the bench, not playing in a single game. But Wilma's spirit had been forged of steel, and she continued to practice hard, refusing to give up. In her sophomore year she became the starting guard for the team and subsequently led the team to a state championship.
But Wilma's first love was running. At the age of sixteen (barely four years free of braces) Wilma participated in track at the 1956 Olympics and won a bronze medal in the 4 x 100 meter relay. However, it was at the state basketball tournament that she was first spotted by Ed Temple, the coach for the women's track team at Tennessee State University. Ed recruited Wilma on a track scholarship and changed the course of her athletic pursuits.
Wilma's most famous athletic accomplishments happened during the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome. The little girl who could hardly walk without the assistance of crutches or braces had completely overcome her physical limitations. At the age of 20, she became the first American woman to win three gold medals in a single Olympics. (The 100 meter dash in 11.0 seconds, the 200 meter dash in 24.0 seconds, and the 4 x 100 Relay in 44.5 seconds.)"
Sometimes it helps us in our own struggles to hear the stories of people who had to endure great hardships and overcome great obstacles, by faith, and with the inner strength and determination God provides. Many times we become too quickly discouraged. We give up too easily. We don't persevere and fight on until victory comes.
A high school student in Honduras once said the following quotes inspired him. I do not know his name, but I'm sure he has pressed on! The first, by Don Juan, states: "The basic difference between an ordinary man and a warrior is that a warrior takes everything as a challenge, while the ordinary man takes everything as either a blessing or a curse."
The second, by Ralph Parlette, says: "Strength and struggle go together. The supreme reward of struggle is strength. Life is a battle and the greatest joy is to overcome. The pursuit of easy things make men weak. It is following the lines of least resistance that makes rivers and men crooked."
In the Christian life it's not about pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. It's about looking in faith to 'God our Helper' (Psalm 118:7) for that which is necessary to overcome the many obstacles in life. Sometimes He graciously does miraculous things for us. But more often what He gives us is increased strength and resolve and determination to press on. After all, were He to do everything for us all the time, He would do us a great disservice by robbing us of the life lessons learned through perseverance, struggle and hardships overcome.
Blessings upon your day, Pastor Jeff