At the Top of the Hill
By Twila Paris
During the Vancouver Olympics, I watched, along with millions, as the USA-1 bobsledding team, led by Steven Holcomb, won the four-man bobsled competition in the Winter Games for the first time since 1948. I don’t know much about bobsledding, but I’ve always enjoyed watching the precision teamwork and the crazy downhill ride that apparently can only be produced by runners on ice.
I have seen enough bobsledding to know that a great start is really important. Of course, this is true in any form of racing. However, it’s not enough to begin well. You also have to finish well, and avoid the many potential pitfalls between the start and finish. And all the while, if you’re bobsledding, the track itself moves you along at speeds beyond your control, faster than your ability to think. Your choices have to be so well rehearsed that they’ve become second nature, almost instinctive.
You’ve probably heard about the Whistler track. It’s the fastest ever, to the point of being very dangerous. By the final day of bobsledding, they had purposely worked to slow the track a little. Even so, Steven Holcomb and the “Night Train” crew finished at a speed of 94 miles per hour.
There is one particular turn the announcers kept referring to as the 50/50 turn. I thought that must be some sport-specific terminology I hadn’t heard before. Then they explained that Holcomb had nicknamed the turn last year during initial practice runs, because approximately half the sleds were crashing at that point on the track.
When it was time for their final run, the USA-1 team was in the lead. At the top of the track, they performed with beautiful synchronicity—pushing, running, popping into the sled, heads down—they were off to an amazing start! This gave them a physical and psychological advantage. Now the task was to maintain focus, keep the standard where it had already been established, and finish the way they began. And they did it! An American team won the Olympic gold medal in four-man bobsledding for the first time in 62 years! Over the celebration, the announcer shouted, “They won the race at the top of the hill!”
We’re all familiar with the Apostle Paul’s reference to this life as a race. He finished well, and we want to do the same. In this race, too, an important part of a great finish is a great beginning. Sure, you can start badly and still finish well. God’s grace and mercy see to that. But I don’t think you can start badly and finish as well as you would have. This is why God gives us parents and says, “Train up a child in the way he should go…”
Children can’t make their own good start. It’s up to their parents to give them one. So we feed and clothe them and keep them out of the street and teach them to wash their hands. And as Christian parents, we model and teach true Christianity in our homes and communities. We know the track is dangerous, and we try to slow it a little, but still it carries our children along at an incredible pace.
So we teach them the eternal truths “when we’re sitting in our homes, when we’re walking in the way, when we lie down and when we rise up.” We make the time for family worship even when we’re exhausted. We prepare them with a godly education. A growing number of us are educating them at home so that we can personally assure every human aspect of that good beginning. And daily, we commit them to God.
Doing these things requires wisdom, intentionality, and sacrifice. It requires faithfulness and sometimes the willingness to humble ourselves, ask forgiveness, and start over. My parents did these things for me. And you and I do them for our children so that one day, by God’s grace, it can be said of them, of an entire generation of Christian young people, and of their children too, “They won the race at the top of the hill.”