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Walking by Faith

A few years ago, Sports Illustrated ran a feature on a young triathlete named Tom O'Conner. O'Conner was then an undergraduate student at Memphis State University and was competing in the Memphis-in-May triathlon. This arduous event consisted of a .9-mile swimming segment, a 6.2-mile run, and a 25.1-mile cycling portion. O'Conner fell twice during the course of the triathlon, but he time he quickly jumped up and resumed the race. Though greatly fatigued, he drew emotional strength from supporters who lined the course shouting, "Tom! Tom! Tom!" Carried by their encouragement, O'Conner finished the course in 3:49:06. O'Conner's victory was not one that consisted of being first to break the tape at the finish line or even breaking the tape at all, for that matter. There were many who reached the finish line before he did. His triumph was that he finished at all. You see. Tom O'Conner is blind.

O'Conner's story is one of courage and determination. The 27 year-old had lost his sight eight years earlier. In addition to the impressiveness of his will to succeed, the way in which he accompanied his goal was likewise remarkable. O'Conner is believed to be the first blind triathlete to complete a race without being tethered to guide for any portion of the event. He swam within a lane that was created by two 20-foot tubes which were pulled by a kayak. He could correct his course whenever he bumped the tube on either side of him. He completed the running portion with a guide who stayed alongside him. But the cycling was the most demanding and potentially dangerous event. O'Conner's trainer rode in a vehicle in front of him and shouted instructions over a bullhorn. 

It is difficult to imagine the level of trust that had to exist between Tom O'Conner and his trainer. Try to picture yourself pedaling a bicycle, speeding along at 20 mph, in total darkness, directed only by the sound of a voice which alerted you to turns and hazards. What complete confidence! What implicit trust! Ken Young, the author of the Sports Illustrated article, concluded his profile by writing, "There is little chance that Tom O'Conner will ever again regain his sight, but he doesn't spend much time thinking about that. 'I do better without my sight than I did with it,' he says. 'Now I take things for what they are, not for what they look like.' While seeing is believing for most people, for Tom O'Conner, just believing is enough.

Like Tom O'Conner, the Christians run the race by faith and not by sight (II Cor. 5:7). We do not know how to properly direct our steps (Jer. 10:23). We are fully dependant upon the voice of the Lord for guidance through this life and into eternity. How foolish we would be to second guess His word; how dangerous to trust the darkness to our own intuition rather than the light of His divine will. Like O'Conner, we do better without our sight than with it!

For His Cause,
Tim Woodward