Many athletes aspire to be the best at what they do. For runners, they want to be the fastest. Mark Crear earned the distinction of “fastest man on the planet,” not once but two times. Crear was the 1996 and 2000 Olympic silver and bronze medalist and was twice ranked as the world’s number one at 110m hurdles. We interviewed Crear in 2008 and talked to him about his purpose and his journey to forgive his dad.
Crear shares how he went from running to realizing that it was his purpose.
“It’s funny, because I think track found me, I didn’t find track. I started track and field in my eleventh-grade year of high school. My high school track coach approached me and asked me to come out and run track. My life was in a hurricane at the time. I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life. I was really lost. I was thinking girls, shorts, tights, you know, and I really went out for that. But something happened when I started running. I fell in love with the sport. Every time that I ran, I just felt this weight come off of me. This was the one thing I had that no one could take from me. You know, God is so amazing with his perfect will and permissive will. He will always finish the good work. I see now that even then I was being led to my purpose. However, you have to be always aware, be obedient and submissive to his leading in our lives. I always tried to be sensitive to what was going on and tried to act on God’s leading in my life. There is a difference to wanting a hand-out; I wanted a hand-up. All I needed was a lane to run in and I knew the rest would work itself out. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but when I realized my purpose, I just had to take the first step. We all just have to take the first step; God has already taken the second step for us.”
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3
Crear opens up about how he reconciled with his father.
“…You know, sometimes you look for people to change and that’s when you forgive them—‘if’ they change. But when you start growing in the Lord, you realize that you have to love them through their faults. You need to protect yourself, but you have to love them unconditionally. To make a long story short, God told me if I wanted to make it to Sydney in 2000, I had to forgive my father. Now, I’m not one to mock the Lord’s directions and I wanted to compete at Sydney. So, in 2000 I picked up the phone and told him, [Pauses in reflection] ‘I want to let you know that I forgive you and I love you.’ He responded by saying, ‘Thank you, Mark. Praise the Lord I love you too.’ He started crying and I felt as though a thousand pounds lifted off of his shoulders. You know, sometimes we condemn people so much and all they want is to be forgiven. We’re supposed to love them and forgive them. We put them under tremendous pressure when we don’t forgive them. Nobody wants to feel that pressure. I felt the lift, more so, for him than for me. I didn’t do wrong that was done, but it was my obligation to free him from the things of the past. God had already delivered me from my past; I wanted him to have the same freedom. I think we all have that same obligation to set people free everywhere we go. And to wrap up that story, the circumstances worked out that I got to take my father with me to Sydney. It was a good moment for him. He got to take all the pictures and get out of the country. It was a good moment—it’s something he can take to his gave and know that he went to the Olympics with his son. It was my way of saying, ‘It’s all forgiven.”
Run the race. While we may not be professional runners, God has called each of us to run the race. He wants us to have the same discipline that athletes who are training for a competition or prize have as we develop our faith in Him. Take time this week to reflect on Hebrews 12. What things are hindering you from running the race God has for you? What do you need to adjust in your life so that you are able to focus your eyes on Christ?
Take the first step. Whether it is taking the first step into the Red Sea, throwing the stone at Goliath or going into a fiery furnace, throughout the Bible, God challenges followers to take the first step in faith. Remember that you are not alone. He has given us the gift of the Holy Spirit. Ask him to give you the faith necessary to do what he has called you to do.
Reconcile. Reconciliation is not an easy process. Each of us probably has at least one person in our lives that we need to forgive. Pray and ask God to show you who that person is. Ask Him to search your heart and show you things in your life that might need to change and to give you a heart of forgiveness. It might mean writing them a letter, meeting with them in person or setting up a mediation with a pastor or trusted friend and the person you want to talk to. Forgiving someone does not mean that we condone what they have done. If you are having trouble forgiving someone, consider meeting with a small group leader, pastor or counselor to help you process the situation.
To read our entire interview with Mark Crear, click here.