[notice]This article was written by Port Elizabeth full-time-mom
Anneri Olivier last year with the Soccer World Cup in mind. Its message of true victory is pertinent to Easter and so it is fitting that its first publication should be in Gateway News at this time[/notice]
In the game of soccer, as in most competitive sports, a team or player is often judged to be only as good as the last few matches played. The victories of the previous season, the brilliant goal kick that won the match, become excellent material for late night sports reruns. But the victory itself fades into memory.
There are always new victors and new sporting legends waiting in the wings.
Yet another year, another season of sport. Nothing changes and yet nothing stays the same. Victory as we know it has a shelf life. Imagine what our country would look like now if the euphoria of the 1995 Rugby World Cup victory never died. We were all in it together, we were all victorious and anything seemed possible. It was a watershed moment for our country, but all too soon supporters-in-arms became strangers again.
Victory it seems is both beautiful and ruthlessly fragile. In our day and age yesterday’s triumphs are left to choke in the dust of the next best thing. Is it possible for victory to be bigger than ourselves, bigger than the sports heroes who attain it, bigger than the earthly boundaries we place around it?
A few weeks after D Day the Allied Forces liberated the small French town of Caen and celebrated a very strategic victory as it was the hinge on which their whole plan turned. There must have been some celebration between the soldiers who lived to see the day of liberation in Caen. But in the fields, on the beaches, in the trenches and ditches lay the bodies of those who had fallen in battle. Yet they had fought with one goal in mind – to be victorious. They were soldiers dead to themselves but alive in their desire for victory. Victory was bigger than their fear. Victory meant freedom and a restoration of life. And they were a part of it, even in death.
In July 2009 the conductor emeritus of the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and his wife chose to end their lives at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland. Sir Edward Downes was virtually blind and suffered loss of hearing, and his wife Joan terminally ill from cancer. In the obituary their children were quoted as saying that their parents had no religious beliefs and there will be no funeral. I know nothing about their lives. I cannot claim to understand their fears and struggles. But I know that my heart grieved for the loss of a legacy of hope. A legacy of the victory that is to come, a victory beyond the boundaries of our earthly existence. It felt to me as if the baton had been dropped and the race had been stopped somehow.
When my mom passed away after fighting an incurable disease for seven years, the message was clear. Victory. At the funeral of a close friend’s mom who fought cancer for many years. Victory. Generations of men and women have wrestled with life, with the beauty and complexity of our existence. And by the gift of grace countless many have been able to hold fast to the promise of something greater.
The men of old understood what it meant to pass the baton. Since the beginning of time the word was spoken that the Word would become flesh. And this message was carried from father to son, from mothers to children, over generations. They spoke of Him as they went. And they waited and hoped.
He was born and grew like a tender shoot, like a root out of dry ground. He was despised and rejected. A man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. He was pierced and crushed, wounded and punished, oppressed and afflicted. Cut off from the land of the living. The Son of God, Jesus Christ, in one moment through one act of complete sacrifice, stretched out his hands to take upon himself all our suffering, our broken lives, our baggage of sin, our failed attempts and missed goals, our diseases, our mistakes, our wretchedness, our deepest desire for redemption, and our longing to overcome. And on the third day, grave clothes laid aside, He won for us – Eternal Victory.
(Words in italic paraphrased from Isaiah 53, NIV.)