LASTING VALUES VERSUS PHYSICAL PROWESS
“I must be measured by my soul; the mind’s the standard of the man.” Isaac Watts
I’ve always been glad that success or failure in life did not depend on my physical abilities. You see, even though I stood six feet tall yet I was not especially coordinated. Perhaps behind the scenes the angels planned for me to be deficient in that area so that I would have to depend on studies, books and the manoeuvrings of the mind. Now as usual, the spark for writing this blog is the memories that take me on the journey back to my family during our time in Brazil.
I quote from my writing years ago. “…I’ve been glad that success or failure did not depend on physical abilities.” Doris and I both found out in Brazil that it really made little difference how well we had performed on any athletic field. Those talents wouldn’t amount to much in learning Portuguese or accomplished the work to which we felt God calling us. Doris remembers the comment of our pre-school daughter Monica who learned Portuguese among the children in the interior. After visiting some other missionaries in a big city she said, “They don’t speak very good Portuguese.” Monica learned it easily for children have that ability. As parents however, the language was difficult. We succeeded for we depended on our fluency in Portuguese to survive our isolation out in coffee country.
I wonder at the value our world places on physical abilities especially in sports. I recall arriving at the Congonhas airport in São Paulo when the Brazilian soccer team came home after winning their 2nd. international championship two years in a row. When their plane landed police used truncheons to beat back the crowd that tried to get to the plane on the runway. We all rejoiced at the win; Pelé was part of the team and the world’s most famous scorer. Their physical superiority in Soccer racked up salaries into the millions. But I wonder how much good each person’s fame and fortune will mean a hundred years from now. I believe the physical is the least important part of the man.
After our family left Brazil for the last time we found a story about the legacy we left to our children. Monica was not yet ten and Vernon almost eight but they wanted to see the Catacombs during our visit to Rome. We had included that city on our trip to Egypt where my sister Velma and family lived as missionaries. So in Rome we made it a point to descend down into the underground rooms and pathways of the Catacombs under the city. Our children saw where the persecuted Christians lived and were buried. We also went with them to the Appian Way where it is thought that the footprints of Peter exist in the stone roadway as he fled persecution. There he is believed to have encountered the Christ who said to him, “Quo vadis?” At that question, Peter returned to a martyrs death.
Why would our children want to visit these places? It was not because either Peter or the martyrs who were buried in the Catacombs were sports heroes. I understand that our children had heard about the faithfulness of these Christians who followed the Lord even to death. In Peter’s case he died crucified head down for he did not consider himself worthy to die as his Master had.
I may consider physical values of little importance since I never was great at horseshoes or softball or soccer, though it is never fun to be ridiculed for being inept. But I feel good as I look back on many things Doris and I accomplished in Brazil. There was a teen whose parents and siblings we helped in some small way. Though I had no idea the value of that help yet now he refers to me as poppa. I am hoping he will be able to speak at my funeral.
So I could not care less that I have scored low in any sport. There are other values in this life that rank higher—much higher. Isn’t that the way it should be for all us at any moment in life? Keeping the eternal in mind helps every one of us to focus our lives on lasting values. It is Jesus who states that during our time here, we are to lay up treasures in heaven.