Friday, August 3, 2012

Going for Gold!

Olympic mania is upon us.  Some of my friends have stayed up so late watching their favorite events they could barely drag themselves out of bed this week.  This got me thinking about us watchers versus competitors.

I am athletically challenged.   I was on a swim team as a kid (you didn't have to qualify, you only had to show up and sign up) and I participated in a water ballet group as a preteen (yes, it's true and it was a beautiful thing--I could tread water for 30 minutes without making a ripple). Other than that, my only athletic endeavors of note included winning a blue (paper) ribbon (the same as a gold medal mind you) in an Accuracy Pitch competition (beating out everyone at Paw Creek Elementary including boys). Alas, we didn't have a girl's softball team back then, so I will never know if I was destined to be one of the sport's greats. Sigh.

This season that is so dripping wet with athletic intensity and displays of physical stamina, endurance and prowess has brought to mind recollections of some of my favorite Olympians in years gone by.  I remember images of a red, white and blue swimsuit donning, gold medal wearing Mark Spitz just before my tonsillectomy at age 13.  I clearly recall telling my doctor that his office would be less ugly if he replaced the posters of ear canals and sinuses with a framed print of America's best swimmer. He did not laugh.

Through the years, quotes from some of the best Olympic athletes have resonated with me.  Here are a few favorites:

"The first thing is to love your sport. Never do it to please someone else. It has to be yours." figure skater Miss Peggy Fleming, 1968
 "When anyone tells me I can't do anything, I'm just not listening anymore." 1988 gold medalist, 1988 and 1984 silver medalist Florence Griffith-Joyner
"I am building a fire, and everyday I train, I add more fuel. At just the right moment, I light the match." Mia Hamm, 2004 gold medalist 
This sort of intensity and passion has to be present in order to get Olympic gold, which got me thinking,  what if there could be a "Christian Olympics"?  Not an athletic competition for Christians, but something that was just between us and God--where He was the giver of gold and we were the ones in training--each and every day doing what was necessary to be the best possible servant of His in the entire world?

I can only imagine the kind of world we'd live in if every time we were tempted to throw in the towel, or get mad at the coach, or blame somebody or something other than ourselves for missed training time, we did't succumb to temptation and instead focused like flint (Isaiah 50:7) on pursuing the gold for God's honor and glory.  What if I treated this journey with Jesus as seriously as an Olympic competitor treats his sport?  I am guessing my life would look and be quite different.

This morning, I'm just thinking about these things and praying that God will give me the kind of intensity, drive, determination and motivation needed to pursue spiritual gold.  In 1984, tiny Mary Lou Retton won gold, silver and bronze medals in gymnastics.  Here were her words: "Each of us has a fire in our hearts for something.  It's our goal in life to find it and keep it lit."  I've found my fire, have you?  Let's keep it lit living for Jesus!

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