A Split Second

What can you achieve in 0.1 seconds? I am not sure that one can even blink in that short a time. At 100 km/h a car covers slightly less than 2.8 metres. It is hardly a measure of time that is comprehensible in concrete terms. And yet there is a swimmer who is lamenting that split second of time which kept her from competing in the coming games.

Finishing sixth in the 200 metre freestyle, she qualified for the relay team for the 2000 Olympics, only to be denied by 0.02 seconds – the time she finished outside of the Olympic qualifying standard. The next night she competed again, only to be beaten into third place by 0.07 seconds. Heartbreaking stuff – a period of time most of us consider inconsequential, but for her was the difference between the fulfilment of a dream and its frustration.

Where could that time have been made up? “If only…” she may have been thinking… pushing a little harder over that last 25 metres; stretching that little earlier for the line… Life can easily become a series of “If only’s” and “What if’s”.

It is amazing to think that such a fleeting moment can make a significant difference in our lives, and yet opportunities so easily slip through our fingers. The moment to offer a word of encouragement, to apologise for that inadvertent slip, to reach out to a person in need. How many times in our life can we look back and say, “If only I had taken that opportunity… If only I had said… If only…” Every moment of time is important, and the shortest moment can be the most critical of all.

An observation: the critical moments of life often arrive unannounced; the greatest events seem to happen on the spur of the moment. Sure they are often the result of much hard work, planning, and prayer, but the critical moment can never be forecast: as Jesus said, ‘the wind of the Spirit blows where it wills…’ If this is true, then it imposes upon us a responsibility to be awake for such moments: to be vigilant for such opportunities. It stands in stark contrast to the casual approach we often undertake to people, events and activities.

Less than one-tenth of a second prevented one young swimmer from being part of an Olympic dream. By focusing that little bit more, and pushing that little bit harder, what opportunities of the Spirit of God will we become aware of?

June 11, 2000
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