I take my hat off to Adam Peaty, winner of the first Team GB Olympic Gold Medal in Rio this week. It was an astonishing victory in the 50m breaststroke and Peaty dominated the pool.
Afterwards, Peaty talked about the quest for “the perfect swim”, requiring total focus in the moment. He just missed breaking his own World Record for the 50m, confessing to feeling “a little bit jittery”. But perhaps that just makes his win even more impressive.
I have been reflecting on feeling jittery, since discovering that the Greek word for distracted is periespato. Luke uses it in his Gospel, when he describes Martha rushing around making a meal for Jesus and the disciples. I am no Greek scholar, but I think it is a wonderfully descriptive word. Try saying it out loud. “Peri” means around, like perimeter. And “espato” … well, I just translate that as spattered! So you get the sense of our attention being spattered around.
Feeling periespato will be familiar to many of us. Our attention is pulled back, to reflect on past events with regret or nostalgia. And we worry furiously about what is coming up, or what might happen. So perhaps we could take time through day to focus on now: to attend to this moment, as if nothing else mattered.
It is what our Olympic athletes are doing as they step up to the starting line. It is what Jesus asked Martha to do. Perhaps we could give it a go?
By the Revd Poppy Hughes, Rector of Tetbury, Beverston, Long Newnton and Shipton Moyne