I am not a huge sports fan.
OK, that’s not quite accurate. I am not a sports fan at all, with two exceptions: 1.) When I personally know someone who’s competing, and 2.) the Olympics. With the Olympics I enjoy the events that are aesthetically pleasing, like figure skating and gymnastics. As for who’s the fastest, who’s the strongest, etc., I watch to root for the Americans. On rare occasions I’ll root for someone I know something about and like, and who has an interesting background story, whatever country they represent.
By far my favorite part of the Olympics is the night of the opening ceremonies, when no one is competing at all. (My husband finds this amusing.) As a theater person, I love the pageantry – the choreography, the music, the colorful costumes from each nation, the pyrotechnics and other special effects – the elaborate production presented by the host country.
Most of all, I love the “Parade of Nations,” when hundreds of athletes enter the stadium with their teams and their flags.
And their faces! I love the looks of excitement and wonder as they smile and wave to the spectators and their friends back home, taking videos and “selfies.” Some are hamming it up, and it’s clear that others can scarcely believe they’re really here! I love the diversity in the faces of these people from all over the world, every one of them created in God’s image.
This year the parade was different. The bleachers were empty, and nearly every athlete was masked. With half their faces hidden, they nevertheless entered energetically, waving enthusiastically, some dancing or jumping in excitement. Though unable to see their smiles, my heart still went out to every one of them.
(Translation: I was in tears most of the time.)
I want to hug all of them!
That same feeling has overwhelmed me at another time some years ago when I was out West with my sister. It was a feeling far more intense than admiration for the gorgeous landscape.
There was another “parade of nations” going on, and we were a part of as we walked along the Lower Rim of the Grand Canyon. One of my first blog posts ever, entitled “A Heart Like His,” described the experience. I was planning to repost it, but as it just disappeared before my eyes, (Oh goody, a chance to exercise patience...) I’ll have to write it again and paraphrase:
A HEART LIKE HIS
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26
Truly one of God’s most amazing creations is the Grand Canyon. I have been there several times with my Arizona sister on some of our annual “sisterly adventures.” The canyon seems to have infinite variety at every turn – different colors, rock formations, vegetation, even totally different looks at different times of day as the shadows shift, and the hues with them.
But this particular time when I was there with my sister Susie and her friend Bill, I was fascinated by the sea of humanity that surrounded us, even more than I was by natural beauty of the scenery.
A tall blonde woman with a Scandinavian accent asked me about a word on one of the plaques, and as I helped her pronounce it and explained its meaning, she slowly pronounced it, thanked me, and continued to gaze at the canyon. A middle-aged Japanese couple who didn’t speak a word of English gestured that they wanted their picture taken with Susie’s 80-something friend. They got on either side of him, giggling and hugging him as though he were their best friend. Bill smiled as Susie took the picture, although he seemed a little confused.
Two darling French children were posing for a picture for their parents, while some young German students laughed heartily at a joke no one else understood. Two black men conversed in a beautiful language I couldn’t identify.
A young mother had stopped to rest, smiling and talking to her baby in a stroller. An elderly couple who seemed to have been together forever, walked hand-in-hand, evidently content to say nothing.
Surrounded by many races, languages, and ages, I noticed some things that weren’t happening. No one seemed angry. No one was arguing politics. No one had an agenda. No one was trying to control anyone else. We all seemed to be in agreement (How often does that happen?) and were there for one thing, to stand in awe of this masterpiece of God, although admittedly not everyone there would have called it that.
As the incredibly beautiful diversity of faces passed by and I pondered what it was about this “United Nations at the Canyon” that was moving me to tears, I made a surprising discovery:
I was in love with everybody!
I then remembered that recently I had begun praying for “divine perspective.” I wanted to see everything – especially people – the way God sees them. And today I was getting a glimpse of His heart for the world – “every people, tribe, nation, and tongue.” He was answering that prayer!
Prayer: Lord God, You’ve created every one of us, and we are each uniquely designed, yet all made in Your image. Help us to see everyone – even ourselves – in light of that truth, in Jesus’ name, amen.
PS If you aren’t sure whether you will be part of that “parade of nations” entering heaven someday, if you don’t feel like “heaven material” because of your flaws, mistakes, blunders, and downright sin, know that we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. But God the Father sent His only begotten Son, Jesus, the perfect Man, to pay the penalty for our sins by dying on the cross in our place. By believing in Him and becoming His followers, we can be forgiven through Him and adopted into His family. You can read more about this in the third chapter of the Gospel of John in the Bible. If you do not have a Bible, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will gladly send you one.