Yesterday an Olympic dream came crashing down on the track of snowboard cross. Lindsey Jacobellis failed to winter her quarterfinals. In the last Olympics she was on her way to the gold, when she chose to “get cute” or as Bob Ryan of the called it “hotdoggy”, miscued and ended up with the silver. She was hoping for redemption from that earlier disappointment at the Olympics in Torino, but in reaching a little further to accomplish her goal, she lost control and crashed through a gate, disqualifying herself. Another athlete claimed her transfer spot on to the quarterfinals.
Redemption is an elusive goal. And even our best efforts can fail because there is so much we cannot control. In the Christian life, redemption does not come by grit; but by grace.
Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Lent is the season of self-examination. Christians today will literally have their foreheads marked with a cross, a cross made from the ashes of the previous year’s palm branches. It will be a reminder that our redemption does arrive at the Cross, it begins at the Cross. Our goal, our prize is to “take hold of that for which Christ Jesus has taken hold of me” (Philippians 3:12). We claim the prize of a relationship with the Living God, a prize that is possible not by our efforts but because Christ Jesus has done the work necessary to make that relationship a reality. Redemption is a gift, not an achievement. And redemption is not forfeited because of a tragic or even foolish misstep on the track of life. Redemption comes by grace from Someone beyond ourselves.