Bill Bowerman was the head coach of the track and field program at the University of Oregon. During his 24 years in this position, he was incredibly successful bringing in multiple national championships, 64 all-Americans, and producing 33 Olympians. One of the things that Mr. Bowerman had continued frustrations with the shoe selection available to his athletes. In his early career, the spikes were heavy, made from leather and metal. He sent many letters to shoe companies suggesting improvements. These were all denied, and so Bill decided to build his own shoes. He received guidance from local cobblers and shoemakers and spent many hours learning and experimenting. One of his primary goals was shaving off every bit of unnecessary weight. His calculations were that every extra ounce in a shoe had to be repeatedly carried with each step. This meant over the course of a one-mile race, that one ounce would be equivalent to lifting 55 pounds of extra weight. Bill's compulsion with weight led to using some interesting materials. This included kangaroo leather, snakeskin, fish skin, deer hide, and more. Over the years of tinkering he tested these shoes on his athletes and sent in his prototypes to shoe companies without any luck. In 1964, a former athlete, Phil Knight, approached him about going into the shoe business for themselves. Bill agreed and together they became 50-50 partners in a shoe company they named Nike.
Bill Bowerman's passion for reducing weight for his runners reminds me of Hebrews 12:1, where we are admonished "...let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us." How diligent are we to remove the extra weight of this life? Notice that this is different from the sin that we can trip over. There are things in this world that are not sinful but can hinder us in our race towards God's Kingdom. Our calling is to have a singular goal and view everything in our lives as it relates to moving towards our destination.
This is expressed in a different analogy in the parable of the sower. "Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful" (Matthew 13:22). We are given two examples of things that can weigh us down. The "cares of this world" literally mean worries of this life or age. The "deceitfulness of riches" is desire for wealth. Simply put, it is allowing things in this physical age to take up too much of our time. When we have too many commitments or distractions, we struggle to find time for Godly things. The result is deadly, as we become unfruitful, which is the opposite of what God desires (John 15:1-8).
The contrast to this was exhibited by the New Testament Church at its very start. They had "simplicity" or singleness of heart. The interests of these Children of God were not divided. Their focus was singularly held on serving God and His people. They cast aside the anxieties that could have consumed them. Their minds could have easily been drawn into their plight as subjects of a corrupt Roman government or the political infightings of their own people. They used their physical blessing to help one another and further the work of God. Their wealth was not weight slowing them down but used as a tool to help others.
As we mature, we should be lightening our load, not making it heavier. What extra weight are we carrying? Have we become anxious over recent events? Have our commitments to physical items been holding us back in our spiritual race? We need to be diligent, even obsessed, with setting aside unnecessary things in this life while maintaining a singular commitment to God.
Happy Sabbath to you all!