Monday, March 14, 2011

"...they shall run and not be weary."

I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure. 

-Chariots of Fire, 1981
"We are all missionaries. Wherever we go we either bring people nearer to Christ or we repel them from Christ." - Eric Liddell

Cue the epic music. We all know it. The theme from Chariots of Fire. It's become a bit of a cliche, a bit of pop culture fodder if you will. Listen to it again like you've never listened to it before. It's so good, right?
(You can go here to listen to it.)

I'm not going to write about the music, I wanted to write about Eric Liddell. I recently re-watched Chariots of Fire (henceforth notated as CoF) and started to research about him. First I have to tell you that as a kid, CoF was one of those movies that I saw multiple times and have a vague recollection of the story. It would come on TV, and just like Breaking Away, we had to watch it. My Dad would get really excited and we'd sit in the living room on Sunday afternoon. I've always known it was about a fast Christian runner ( it's also about Harold Abrahams, a Jewish runner who experienced anti-Semitism in college as well as the running world). Yesterday I decided to watch CoF again. I started researching Mr. Liddell, or the "Flying Scotsman" as he was called. Aside from his already fantastic story of staying true to his beliefs and running like a madman, I found a great missionary who ended up losing his life while serving the people he loved. 
If you've seen the movie you know that he gave up running in the 100-metres race because of his belief in keeping the Sabbath. The 100-metres race was his best event. He ended up training for the 400-metres race, where he wasn't expected to win. An American Olympic masseur slipped a piece of paper into his hand with 1 Samuel 2:30 written on it. He won the gold medal. 
The movie doesn't go into Liddell's missionary service in China, where he served for nearly 20 years. He was a teacher at an Anglo-Chinese school, he coached boys in several sports, was a superintend of the Sunday School where his father was pastor and helped build Minyuan Stadium . He was ordained while on furlough in 1932. He returned to China and married his wife, Florence Makenzie who had also grown up in a missionary family.
It became dangerous in 1941 for the British missionaries to live in China as Japan became more aggressive. Florence and the children moved to Canada while Eric stayed in China to run a rural mission. In 1943, Eric was interned at the Weifang Internment camp. Eric became a leader among the others who were there. He helped to divide the scarce supplies of food and medicine. He was referred to as "Uncle Eric" while he helped the elderly, led Bible study and taught science to the children. 
Eric died on February 21, 1945, 5 months before the camp was liberated. He died from an inoperable brain tumor. His last words were "It's complete surrender." 
He had lived his whole life in service to the God he loved. 

In 2008, Chinese authorities revealed that Eric had given up an opportunity to be freed. He gave his spot to a pregnant woman.

This man carved his name on hearts. Christ was in everything he did, whether it was running or serving people in China.  While he is well known for his running (which was very unorthodox, he threw his head back and held his mouth open), I want to draw attention to his later life. He died serving people he loved because Jesus loved him. 
There is now an Eric Liddell Center in Edinburgh, England where his legacy carries on. 

Rather than leave a fancy tombstone behind, I want to leave a legacy. Not to promote myself, but only to share Jesus and to make a difference in the lives of others. I can only hope that I make a fraction of a difference that Eric Liddell did. I pray that my heart is open to everything Jesus gives me in the same way the "Flying Scotsman" was. 
Doesn't that theme song seem so much more epic now? 

**Information was found on Wikipedia & The Eric Liddell Center's Website**


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