Last night I watched a 2014 movie about a WWII Veteran and Olympian Loius Zamperini. There were parts of the movie that were difficult to watch even though the version I was watching was edited for TV. His life was not easy, but those difficulties made him strong. He was a 2nd son of an Italian family that immigrated to the United States. The community youth did not always accept him because of his heritage. He was often in trouble for trespassing, underage drinking, and getting into fights. Eventually, his older brother introduced him to track and Zamperini found something he could excel at. When he complained about training, his brother told him, “If you can take it, you can make it.”
This phrase carries him to state finals and on to the US track team in the 1936 Olympics (the same team with Jesse Owens they were roommates at the Olympics). Zamperini did not place at the ’36 Olympics, but did set a lap record in the 5000m. He planned to race in the 1940 Olympics in Tokyo. Those games did not happen due to WWII.
Zamperini entered the war and became a bombardier. On May 27, 1943 his plane went down in the Pacific and after fifty days at sea, he and fellow survivor Russell Phillips, were captured by the Japanese near the Marshall Islands. He remained a prisoner of war and endured harsh treatment until the end of the war. He survived by remembering the phrase, “If I can take it, I can make it.”
Louis Zamperini would spend much of his adult life until his death in 2014 at the age of 97 preaching the importance of faith and forgiveness. He travelled back to Japan and met with most of his captors and reconciled with them.
Two things I want to remember from Loius Zamperini:
- The pain is worth the glory. I think the apostle Paul said something similar, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,” (2 Corinthians 4:17). I can take the pain, disappointments, and struggles of this life so I can make it to my eternal reward.
- Forgiveness is important. Jesus taught forgiveness, “Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:21-22). He exemplified that forgiveness on the Cross.