Our four-year-old son is completely captivated by the Olympics. The first thing he did on getting out of bed this morning was hang two plastic gold medals around his neck. The other day he invented a new sport – ‘five ball football’ – which involves trying to tick five balloons across the room as quickly as possible. I’ve been similarly inspired and challenged to begin asking how I could fit a bit more sport or physical exercise into my weekly routine. At 40, any infinitessimal prospect I ever had of winning an Olympic gold medal is well behind me (unless I suddenly discover a prodigous talent for shooting or dressage) but I am completely inspired to want to play sport again.
This feeling is all too familiar for me. I would love to set up and conduct a local brass band. I would love to sort out the children’s work at church. I would love to write a beautiful, original, agenda-shifting history book. I would love to walk around the entire coast of Britain for charity. I would love to spend a bit more time volunteering for something I care about and making a simple difference to others. Life is so full of possibilities, and yet there never seems to be enough time. I feel the same about the challenges facing our world: what could I do to help create a more environmentally-sustainable society? How could I be involved in generating employment opportunities for all those who are currently out of work? What about the challenge of an ageing society and the rising numbers of older people in poverty and isolation? What about being someone who could mentor and support young people? There are so many challenges and so little time to do anything about them. Should I try and contribute to as many as I can? Am I better to try and focus on just one, and make a real contribution there?
Sometimes it feels as though the world is almost too wonderful, too overwhelming, to bear. And yet the essence of Christian vocation is to seek to bear it, and to do the best I can with the short time of a human life span.