Ok, I admit it, I am an Olympics fanatic! But not in the way you may think. Every time I watch the Olympics, I am inspired and encouraged by the stories of the Olympians. This time I was struck by the stories of Emily Scott, a short-track skater; Noelle Pikus-Pace, a skeleton slider; and Jeremy Abbott, an America figure skater. Listening to their stories, watching their successes, and witnessing their setbacks touched my heart.
During an interview, Emily said, “Everyone has a story,” as a way to draw attention away from her story. She came to the Olympics through the monetary donations of others. She grew up in a single parent home with her father as her soul caretaker. She started her athletic career as an inline skater, but switched to short track in 2008 so that she could hopefully participate in the Olympics one day. As I watched her skate and finish first in her preliminary heat, she was cool and calm and showed experience beyond her years. Yet later, when she was in her semi-final race, she was taken down by a Korean skater forcing her to finish in 5th place after getting back up. As I stand back and look at her story, two points stick out to me. She grew up with the cards stacked against her, but she did not let her mother being in jail or the fact that she had to receive food stamps at one time, label her and define who she is. Also, when she fell down, she got back up and completed the race. WOW!!! Can you see the spiritual parallels? How often do we let our past define who we are and color our entire lives? We do not let who He says we are permeate our souls. Instead, we allow the past to creep back in and rob the joy of being one of God’s kids. Yes, we all make mistakes; we all seek to find our significance and purpose in other things and other people besides God, but it is recognizing that and getting back up and focused that makes the difference. The Bible says we will face difficulties and trials. My prayer is that we will see the freedom and peace He longs to give us on the other side, and even in the midst of the trials.
Jeremy Abbott has always struggled with nerves, and it showed right away at the Olympics. During the team competition, he did not skate as well causing his other teammates to work even harder. Then came his time in the men’s individual skating event, and all eyes were on him. Shortly after beginning, he hesitated to start his quad jump in time causing him to fall hard on his hip. Dazed and confused, he lay on the ice with a look of resignation in his eyes. Then to the surprise and amazement of all, he arose and completed his program. I was cheering him on every step of the way just as the crowd in the ice rink applauded and cheered throughout his program. When he received his score, it was even higher than what he had scored the first time he skated for the team competition. Yes, his story is similar to that of Emily’s but with a different twist to it. In his initial performance, he was competing with his team. Never did I see them berate him or say, “Thanks for nothing, bud.” When they went on to win the bronze, no one said, “You don’t get one because you did not perform well enough.” Regardless of his performance, he was still part of that team, and he deserved to share in the benefits. Ok, I am so excited as I look again at the spiritual applications! We are God’s kids, so it is like we are on His team. Even when we mess up and live in a way that is contrary to who we are, we still have all the benefits of being God’s kids. We can deny it and say, “Oh, I am not worthy.” That would be like Jeremy refusing to receive his medal because he had one bad skating day. My friends, that is where grace and forgiveness come in.
As I watched a feature story on Noelle and her return to the sport of Skeleton, I was mesmerized. In the 2010 Olympics, Noelle finished in 4th place, just short of the podium. Up to this point she spent much of her life on the road, away from her family, traveling on the Skeleton World Cup Team. After the Vancouver Olympics, she retired from Skeleton, believing she was done. She had her second child and enjoyed her life as a mom. Then tragedy struck. She found herself filled with such joy at being pregnant again, but then she had a miscarriage. This propelled her forward to re-enter the world of Skeleton, but with a totally different focus and motivation. Her husband told her that she should try Skeleton one more time. They both decided that if she were to continue that the sport would not steal her family time from her. Her husband and two kids travel everywhere with her, and she takes her kids with her when she works out at the track or into their weight room at home when she works out. She came in as a favorite to do well at this Olympics, and she ended up earning a silver medal in Skeleton. I believe that even if she had not, she would have been filled with the same amount of joy because at the end of the day, she still had her amazing family. After winning she scaled a wall to get to her husband and embrace him. It was a beautiful moment. Noelle had a moment that woke her up at the 2010 Olympics; she had an aha! moment about who and what was the most important thing in her life. Her heart no longer pursued the prize as much as enjoying the journey of life with those she loved. That is how I want to live. I want to stop when the world begins to get to busy around me and takes me away from those I love and away from His real purpose for me.
My prayer for all of you is that you will know you are deeply loved and cherished by Father. Also, that even in the mess-ups and the hard parts, He does not leave or turn His back. He wants to shower you with His love. I also hope and pray the "busyness" of this world does not take you captive and away from your first love, Christ.
Becoming Who My Father Sees in Me,
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