An Irregular Column – Letters From London
BY WILL PRATT –
Lord, Send the Rattlesnakes!
You may have been too busy counting the medals won by the USA and Russia to have noticed that Britain didn’t do very well in the Atlanta Olympic Games. Great Britain was not very great. It was our worst showing for ages.
Since the athletes returned home, the nation’s media has been having a field day wanting to know why. Some have put our failure down to Atlanta’s being too hot for our nice young athletes. Fair-skinned Englishmen do better when it’s cold and drizzly! But they didn’t do very well in the swimming, either, and surely the Olympic pool isn’t filled with hot water. (The swimmers have been in hot water since!)
Even our usually reliable horses seemed lack-luster. One stopped suddenly at a fence and threw its rider over its head. That’s no way to behave with the world’s media watching!
(Incidentally, Alistair Cooke, in his weekly broadcast to Britain about American affairs, told us the Atlanta Olympics themselves came under heavy criticism from the U.S. press. He quoted such headlines as: “Triumph of commercialism over sport.” His own wrath was directed at the dominating 165 ft. Coca-Cola bottle tower.)
But it’s not all doom and gloom. The failure has shattered our complacency. Mr. John Major, our Prime Minister, has announced the commencement of an Academy of Sport, where young people giving promise of high skill will be coached by experts. Schools will be urged to introduce additional physical training to their syllabus. There must be no more selling of sports grounds to commercial developers. More out-of-school-hours games are to be introduced.
So good may come out of disaster. We will pick ourselves up, dust ourselves down, and start all over again.
I’m reminded of the old story of the farmer and his three sons, Jim, John and Sam. They were wayward church members. Visits from the pastor and other church members urging them back to church had no effect whatever. One day a rattlesnake bit John. The doctor declared his condition critical. He did what he could for John but then told the farmer, “All you can do now is pray.”
The father called for the preacher and asked him to pray for John. This is the prayer the minister is reported to have prayed (no doubt with a twinkle in his eye, for I assume your eye can still twinkle when it is closed!)
“O wise and righteous Father, we thank Thee that in Thy wisdom Thou has sent this rattlesnake to bite John, to bring him to his senses. He has not been inside the church for years, and it is doubtful he has in all that time felt the need for prayer. Now we trust this will prove a valuable lesson to him and lead him to genuine repentance.
“Now, O Father, wilt Thou send another snake to bite Sam and another to bite Jim, and a real big one, Father, to bite the old man. All our combined efforts could not do what this snake has done, so we conclude the only thing left that will do this family any good is rattlesnakes. So, Lord, send us bigger and better rattlesnakes. AMEN.”
A God who sends rattlesnakes to bite backsliders gives me problems. But I understand what the brilliant Professor C.S. Lewis is saying when he writes, “God whispers to us in our well-being, but shouts to us in our suffering.”
He doesn’t inflict the slings and arrows of misfortune that may afflict us, but he will use them to our blessing if we will let him. Amidst our depression and self-pity, let’s listen for the voice that roused Joshua (7:10): “Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face?”
Maybe Britain’s athletes need some rattlesnakes.
P.S. Britain gained 39 gold medals and approximately 135 medals in total during the paralympic games. They came fourth in the world table. Obviously, they needed no rattlesnakes to spur them to action. Their disabilities were rattlesnakes enough. See what I mean!