I’ve been watching (along with millions of others) some of the Olympics the past few days. I enjoyed the parade of nations at the opening ceremonies as athletes from over 200 countries entered the same arena, one group after another. It was a gorgeous sight… so many beautiful people from all over the world. I would have loved to have heard them break out in a worship song! The nations, singing together? It would be a glorious sound.
I am amazed at what the human body is capable of, and how far these athletes can push themselves. Athletes work hard, and their diligence reminds of these words by Paul: “No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” (1 Corin. 9:27)
Some of these competitors have been training for many, many years and have remained dedicated to their goal, persisting over a long period of time. I have heard stories of athletes who have experienced great hardship, injury, personal difficulties, and have overcome their obstacles to get themselves to the Olympics. While each competitor has a unique story, I find the stories of athletes who are overcomers to be especially inspiring.
The persistence and discipline required are something we don’t see– the training in the trenches, daily. We see the end result at the Olympics– but we know that these individuals have sacrificed much and trained hard to make it to this point.
Yet even with the best of training, accidents, injuries, and unknown circumstances can change the course of a competition, and we see falls, mistakes, upsets, surprises, and losses. Even with hard work, the records that are set could be broken by someone else in the next round, or next year, or in the next Olympic games, because it seems that every four years, the competitors push themselves a little more, adding yet another more complicated element, or competing faster, which then pushes everyone else to attain that level.
There is something within an Olympian that pushes him or her. Perhaps it is the desire for a gold medal. Perhaps it is the goal to be the best at one’s chosen sport. Perhaps it is the thrill of competing and continuously improving one’s own score. Perhaps it is the desire to bring honor to one’s own country. Whatever the goal, the athlete decides that the end result is worth the sacrifice required.
When an Olympian wins a gold, then what? Sometimes, athletes will return to the games twice or three times, or more in a few cases, to try for another medal, to beat their own personal best, or to set a new world record.
But then what?
Paul, before the Lord spoke to him, had a goal: persecuting Christians. He was zealous in this pursuit. But when the Lord spoke to him, blinded him, and he changed, Paul still had a goal, and remained zealous, though his goal changed completely. Now, his zeal was for the gospel of Christ to such a degree that he said this: “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” (Phil. 3:8)
This life, Paul says, is like a race: “ Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” (1 Corin. 9:24)
What is the prize we are going after?
Whether athlete or not, competing or pursuing a goal for one’s own personal glory might feel nice for a short time, but this goal is short-lived, and superficial. At the end of the day, no matter what one does, Olympian or not, famous or not, young or old, rich or poor, each person has to look in the mirror and has to answer the deep questions of life, and know why he or she is here, and what life is really about, and one day will answer to God.
At the end of the day, each one of us is fighting, and running a race, and the glory of a medal isn’t what is going to get us through. We need to know what we’re fighting for, and why, and for whom.
Sharing a few things on the thankful list, at A Holy Experience: #871-880:
871. That Christ’s strength is made perfect in my weakness.
872. Tall, brightly colored zinnias
873. Appliances: washing machine, dryer, dishwasher
874. Thunderstorms and rain
875. homemade oatmeal cookies
876. my pillow
877. tea and bagels in the morning
878. My two boys, who rode their bikes 5 miles one way, played softball in the park, then rode their bikes back. They’re growing up fast.
879. My daughter, who says, “need help? anything I can do?” I have the best kids in the world.
880. Me, a broken person, mama, and all of it… yet God using me in spite of me.
881. This quote:
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” C.S. Lewis