A drop in the bucket

by abbamoses

Today as I was pondering the depressing carnival of vanity, greed and lies that is our presidential campaign — and this is only the primaries! — for some reason I remembered the popular 1981 movie Chariots of Fire, and was cheered up a bit.

Part of the story concerns the Scottish runner Eric Liddell, who caused a sensation at the 1924 Olympics by refusing to compete in a crucial race for the British team because it was scheduled on a Sunday. Some admired his stance; others considered him disloyal to his country.

There’s a moving scene showing Liddell in a Scottish Presbyterian church in Paris on the Sunday of the race. As we’re shown the other athletes competing, Liddell is asked to speak and reads these lines from the fortieth chapter of Isaiah:

Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance… 
All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity
Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.
He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:
But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles;
they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

The movie, and especially that scene, have always stayed in my mind as lessons in putting first things first. The current political clownshow has been claiming too much of my attention. Sometimes I feel that even following such things is a sinister hybrid of idolatry and pornolatry, and I was grateful for this reminder.

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The quote is Isaiah 40:15, 17, 28–31, using the King James translation that Eric Liddell would undoubtedly have used. These are the excerpts used in the movie as best I can remember them.