“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV
The crowd lulls to a hush. At one end of the track stands a sleek and speedy runner with arms hanging loosely in front. Forty meters ahead, a man begins to clap and shout loudly toward the runner. In an instant the runner takes off like a bullet, making his way toward the sound. At just the right moment he plants his left foot millimeters before the mark and catapults his body toward the sand pit in front of him.
The scene I’m referencing took place at the London 2017 World Para Athletics championships. Many might have seen it as impossible. But not Lex Gillette. At the age of 8 he began losing his sight. Several procedures followed but none were successful. Though physically blind, Lex’s vision of winning gold was greater than any sight he might have lost.
Choose Your Vision
In the book “Freedom Flight”, Olympic Gold Medalist Lanny Bassham tells a story based on his own struggles, about meeting a mentor who would completely reshape his own vision. In the parable version presented in the book, Lanny meets a North Vietnam POW camp survivor who relays his story during a flight to an upcoming world championship event.
The mentor describes how he survived the harshest treatment imaginable as he was kept in a bamboo cage for several days with limited food and water. In part, a vision for what he wanted (for him it was hours of visualizing himself playing golf) was what literally kept him alive. He goes on to teach Lanny several lessons including:
“Your environment is not reality. Your perception of your environment is reality.”
And “It is unimportant what happens to you in life. What is important is what you do about what happens to you.”
Lanny’s mentor couldn’t control being chained up in a bamboo cage. Lex couldn’t control the fact that doctors couldn’t help him regain his sight. There are things we will have to accept in our lives that we will downright dislike but it is in how we deal with these realities that shape who we are.
A New Purpose
I recently read the story of former college basketball star Ron Rollerson, who played for famed coach John Chaney at Temple. Rollerson, who admittedly played at a weight north of 300lbs while at Temple, had a few shots in the pros and even traveled with the Harlem Globetrotters before his knees and health declined. Sadly, in 2016, Rollerson suffered a ruptured aortic aneurysm that caused the loss of his leg and partial loss of eyesight.
Following a dark time where life seemed hard to continue on with, Rollerson eventually found his vision. Reminded by an old trainer of when he used to be a swimmer decades ago, he has found peace in the water. His goal is the 2024 Paralympics. He hopes to swim the breaststroke. Yet whether or not he makes it there, this vision has saved his life.
The apostle Paul reminds us not to lose heart. He too gives us a vision of an eternal reward that is much greater than the troubles we experience in this world. I’ve never gone through the physical trials these men have but I have my own struggles as I know you do.
It gives me hope to see what a vision for something greater has done for these men. When their purpose crystallized within their minds it set off an incredible release of focused energy on what they could control.
Find your vision. Unleash that same power for an eternal glory above all earthly troubles. As Lex Gillette said, “Sight allows you to see what is. Vision allows you to see what can be.” Become your vision, and live your purpose for what can be today.
 Lex Gillette’s story was referenced in Bob Goff’s recent book “Everybody Always”; for a video of his 2017 Gold-winning jump see here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLX0blBD6Fg