The city of Los Angeles hosted the 1984 Summer Olympics. The world was watching what the entertainment capital of the world would do with the opening and closing ceremonies. During this time, I was running a gymnastics center in the L.A. area. The choreographers came to our gym asking if we had adult male gymnasts who could perform in the opening ceremonies. We had the gymnasts, and because of this, I was given an incredible inside view of the entire production. The ceremonies were designed to be a truly epic event. Everything came of as planned except one thing … except one glorious moment designed and planned in the mind of the producer.
Toward the end of the opening ceremonies, an American bald eagle was to fly around the USC Coliseum over the heads of the audience while the national anthem was playing and then land on the Olympic rings at the end of the song.
The animal trainer for the event faced two significant problems while trying to make this moment happen. The first problem was locating an eagle in captivity. The second was only encountered after the first problem had been solved. The eagle the trainer found had been in captivity for six years because of injuries he had sustained. In order for this moment in the ceremony to be successful, a lot of restoration and training would need to take place before the big day.
After months and months of intense work, the time had come to test the eagle’s training. He was brought to the Coliseum and released to fly. After several test fights the animal trainer encountered an unrecoverable problem.… the eagle died. An investigation found that the eagle had died as a result of vascular collapse and bacterial infection. Consequently, the untold millions who watched the show that summer day never experienced the beauty of that performance.
In a TIME magazine article written about the opening ceremonies, the animal trainer gave an epitaph to the eagle: “The eagle had been fat and coddled for years, and when finally called upon to behave like an eagle, he failed.” Some deep part of me gasped. There was something transcendent about this story, something deeper and more profound than a glorious plan gone awry.
This is the story of many of our lives.
For all of us, there are divine moments we were created for. Moments created for our contribution, moments needing our glory. But often we are not prepared for what will be required of us. We have become fat and coddled, dull and untrained, Alert and Oriented Times Zero.
Erwin McManus wrote in The Barbarian Way,
We are not ready for the great challenges set before us. We have not been prepared to take on any great quest, to battle any great enemy, or even to pursue a great dream for which we have been born. Instead, Christianity has become our Shawshank, and our redemption will only come if we find the courage to escape the prison we have created for ourselves.”
We were not meant to train for such challenges, quests, battles, or dreams alone. God has been with us, helping to develop us; and He is well aware of our injuries, our wounds, and our weaknesses. We have underestimated the power of our lives and our role in the story He has planned for us. But Satan has not underestimated us—that is why he launches such a fierce assault against our hearts. And neither does God—that is why He must train us.