Imagine that you have swum 1500 metres, cycled 40km, and run 10km in a race, only to be finish just a second behind the winner following a sprint finish. That’s what happened to Jonny Brownlee at the weekend in the World Triathlon Championships. Not only that, but it meant that Javier Gomez pipped him to the World title by 5 points (in over 4000!). (But for balance we Brits rejoiced that GB’s Non Standford won the women’s race and was crowned World Champion).
The Brownlee brothers came to the national consciousness especially during the 2012 Olympics when older brother Alistair won the Gold Medal in the Triathlon. Coming into this year’s final race only a Brownlee brother or Gomez could have won the title, but Alistair was seriously hampered by an injury prior to the event so it was between Jonny and Javier. In the final stretch of the race the front two were sprinting towards the line while other runners were coming up the other side of the course on the same piece of Hyde Park.
We were treated to the astonishing sight of Alistair stopping his race to shout encouragement to his brother. The Telegraph Online report is quite moving: “The love of one brother for another knows no bounds. As Jonny rounded the final hairpin bend and began to sprint for home, he encountered Alistair travelling in the opposite direction. Well down the field and with no chance of a podium place, Alistair had actually stopped running to scream encouragement to his younger sibling.”
Alistair’s comments after the race about his brother’s second place are rather amusing, and will probably go down in sporting folklore:
“I saw him make his move with about 200m to go, and I thought: ‘Oh no, what an idiot.’ I’ll be giving him a lot of stick for that. He’s thrown a world title away through being a complete tactical numpty.
“I know from training with him that he likes to hit the front and push it along. If he sits behind and makes a decisive move with 75 metres to go, he’s going to beat him. I was just yelling at him: ‘use your head’. Unfortunately he didn’t, and he lost.”
What I found inspiring and encouraging was the relationship between the brothers. There is clearly sibling rivalry and they are fiercely competitive. But above that is love. Love that means one will stop his race to encourage the other. Love that means that they can give each other stick and one can call the other a “complete tactical numpty” on national television and it does not affect their relationship.
It seems to me that there are some parallels with the godly love that we are called to have for one another as Christians. Sometimes we need to stop what we are doing and cheer on someone else, putting them before ourselves. And sometimes we need to be honest enough to say when someone has got it wrong, but doing so lovingly and gently (I think ‘complete tactical numpty’ was said affectionately and relatively gently for the brothers). We need to know and love one another enough to be able to have fun with each other and not take offence.
I sometimes try to encourage people who are following Jesus by asking them to imagine Jesus saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (from his parable about ‘talents’). Sometimes I also hear him when I have failed gently ribbing me with the loving equivalent of ‘complete tactical numpty’. I think I can take that from him because I know how much he loves me!
Be blessed, be a blessing