The familiar call: ‘take your marks’ signals that the waiting is over for the Olympic athlete – meticulous preparation, those years of torturous training completed –  the big build-up to the main event is concluded – action is imminent – it’s time to do the business.

Although national expectations may run high, with the gaze of spectators, the glare of cameras, and the world watching intently, excitedly – these relatively ‘trivial matters’ are pushed aside. In those brief intervening seconds there’s utter focus, with no other thought than running the race ahead, no distractions permitted. It’s a study in total concentration,  poised in the blocks for the ‘set’ followed quickly by the starter’s pistol, in that intense bid to get the flying start that will give an edge and could make a difference between gold and silver positions. In this game split-seconds count. Felix in starting blocks at the U.S. Olympic athletics trials in EugeneSuch is the determination in this picture of athlete Allyson Felix ‘under starter’s orders’.

The term, understandably, is used also of those eager or ready to begin new ventures, in whatever sphere – starting a new business, a fresh relationship, a different project, for example. Plans are laid, the preparations made and it’s off we go.

Well, that’s exactly how I felt 12 months ago, standing at the threshold of an exciting new personal adventure – with our move from North Lincolnshire to South Yorkshire, and with a new life before us – like starting over again. Exciting.

Significantly, the indomitable apostle Paul used similar Olympian ‘figures of speech’ on occasions in his letters to churches. For example, here’s his encouragement to the church in Corinth: “You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally. I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me ! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.”  The Message Bible

Words that continue to challenge me to the core, as I remain under Divine Starter’s orders.