We went to see Chariots of Fire last night, on stage. If you haven't been - go! It is amazing. Spellbinding. Uplifting and inspirational. We were the only two people in the front row (cheaper seats, you had to crane your neck - but we are both tall so it was no problem!) And so my husband was handed a pair of cymbals at the start of the second Act - and had a crashingly enjoyable 5 minutes.
And we all know the story: how one man stood by his principles, even when his beloved sister and then his team leaders and even the Prince of Wales, asked him to give in just this once - for King and Country. And how he remained steadfast.
The production has been much talked about - how the actors have to run so hard, so fast, around the circular track in the auditorium. We felt exhausted after just a few minutes of watching it all! But by the time we had sat through the whole play (musical? show? ) we felt proud to be Christian, proud to be British, proud of King and country. It was inspirational.
For once, Christianity was not derided, sidelined, undermined or mocked.
For once, the Christian was held up as a hero.
His rival and team mate, Harold Abrahams, was quoted as saying, "I am faster. But he is better."
Eric Liddell was voted as Scotland's favourite sports star over a century after his death. Yet he died in obscurity as a prisoner of war in a concentration camp, having spent his relatively short life as a missionary.
David Puttnam, the producer of the 1981 film, said of Eric Liddell, "Everything I have read makes clear the depth of Eric Lidell's personal commitment: the degree to which his beliefs formed him - and his desire to bring them into EVERY aspect of his life."
Eric Liddell left an enormous legacy. A commitment to God, a passion for living life in God's ways, a firmness in his desire for wanting only to be firm in his beliefs and faith. He said,
"You came to see a race today. To see someone win. It happened to be me. But I want you to do more than just watch a race. I want you to take part in it. I want to compare faith to running in a race. It's hard. It requires concentration of will, energy of soul. You experience elation when the winner breaks the tape - especially if you've got a bet on it. But how long does that last? You go home. Maybe you're dinner's burnt. Maybe you haven't got a job. So who am I to say, "Believe, have faith," in the face of life's realities? I would like to give you something more permanent, but I can only point the way. I have no formula for winning the race. Everyone runs in her own way, or his own way. And where does the power come from, to see the race to its end? From within. Jesus said, "Behold, the Kingdom of God is within you. If with all your hearts, you truly seek me, you shall ever surely find me." If you commit yourself to the love of Christ, then that is how you run a straight race. "
In Paris, on the very Sunday when Eric Liddell was meant to be running in an Olympic heat, he was preaching in church. Isaiah 40: they shall run and not be weary'; they shall walk and not faint.
May that be true for you and me today - and tomorrow and all our tomorrows. To run, wholeheartedly and with passion and a sense of calling and adventure, with God's power within us, until we break the finishing tape.