In 1992, British-born Derek Redmond was in search of an Olympic medal. Which color, he cared not. He just wanted a piece of human history, and he had disciplined himself with machine-like precision his whole life to achieve that goal.
Four years earlier, in 1988, at the age of 19, he’d shattered his country’s record for the 400-meter, putting himself in competition at the Olympics held in Seoul. But tragedy would strike that year in Asia, as he was forced to withdraw from the world-wide event just 10 minutes before the start of the race due to an injured Achilles tendon.
Five surgeries and four years later, Derek again put himself in contention for Olympic victory. On that fateful day in 1992, runners knew that the top four finishers in each of the two semifinal heats would qualify for the Olympic finals.
The stadium’s 65,000 patriotic fans screamed when the starter’s pistol cracked. Redmond was out with a bolt, and quickly broke away from the pack. He looked in top form as he distanced himself further. But in the backstretch, with 175 meters to go, Derek Redmond heard a pop, pulled up, and came to a stop.
He had ripped his right hamstring.
As Derek tried hopping on one leg, flailing about, every runner passed him. Eventually, he fell to the track.
He later told reporters that while laying there, he realized he wasn’t given the opportunity to even start his race in 1988, and there was simply no way he wasn’t going to finish this one!
Then, in a moment that will live forever in the minds of millions, Redmond lifted himself to his feet, ever so slowly, and started hobbling down the track. But he wasn’t headed toward the sideline; he fixed his eyes on the finish line.
The crowd, in total disbelief, rose to their feet and began to roar their support.
Meanwhile, as Derek limped along the track, a man seated at the top of the stadium leapt into action. He tore his way down the stairs, hopped over the wall, pushed aside security personnel, and ran out onto the track.
It was Jim Redmond, Derek’s father.
Jim ran up behind Derek and threw himself underneath his son’s arm. “I’m here, son,” Jim said. “We’ll finish together.” With that, he braced Derek, and the two of them continued toward the finish line, step by painful step.
The deafening crowd provoked them onward. A few feet shy of the finish line, Jim let his son go, so he could cross the finish line by himself, but quickly embraced him again on the other side. They buried their heads in each others’ chest, sobbing wildly, along with everyone in the stadium.
After the race, Derek was interviewed and he declared “My father was the only person who could have helped me, because he understood everything that I had been through.”
That poignant moment in Olympic history reminds us of the day our heavenly Father “left the stands” to come help us, in Jesus Christ. Derek’s testimony of his father Jim is but an echo of an earlier truth spoken of Jesus Christ. In Hebrews 4:15-16, the Bible says
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one [Jesus Christ] who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet He did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Where would we be had God not “left the stands” in Heaven and come to us?
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(Resource cataloged by David R Smith)