I’ve been digging the Olympics. It’s only once every 4 years that I find myself caring bout such seemingly insignificant sports/events/hobbies that would have trouble finding their way onto ESPN8 “the Ocho.” But because these games only occur once ever four years, I care that the USA wins Water Polo over Montenegro. I can legitimately say that I care.
But one thing that has put me in a more contemplative mood has been the losers. Micheal Phelps not medaling and Jordyn Wieber not being able to compete in the gymnastics all around have been my major “stand-outs.” But since there is pretty much a new crop of gymnasts every four years, an every four years “fan” can’t get to know them. So I’ll briefly share some thoughts on the former American golden boy Michael Phelps.
Four years ago, this guy could simply jump in the pool and he’d win. According to an interview with his family, his sisters recounted that he had become more desirable than famous male celebrities. I can’t remember which one, but then again, I’m not really into male celebrities or movies stars. And yet, during the grueling 400 meter medley, he didn’t even medal. Losing to Lochte, who described these Olympics as “my time,” had to sting just as badly.
The winner was now a loser.
How will he fare in the rest of the Olympics? Will he garner more gold or miss out on the bronzes again?
But more existentially, who will he really be, now that he cannot describe himself as the best anymore? Who we really are is shown not in victory but in defeat. In victory, we can hide behind gold medals. We can hide behind successful careers, well behaved kids, new houses, thriving churches, approval ratings. But when we “lose,” those things are revealed for what they often are. Simply places to hide behind.
I hate losing. I hate it when my team loses. I cannot imagine training for four years for an event or events (though Phelps did only for 9 months in that medley), and then blowing it. But sometimes God will tear down those walls. He tears down walls that not only serve as barriers to the horizontal relationships, but to the walls we erect in our relationship with Him. It’s at that point, that we are no longer Olympic athletes, successful businessmen, parents, or pastors, but we are just His children. Or we’re just losers grasping at something else to hide behind. Being is children is plenty enough. When it’s not, God will in His goodness, show love by allowing you to lose. When the tears dry, lets remember to thank Him because losers can see Him more clearly.
My four year old asked if Micheal Phelps tells people about Jesus. I told him that Phelps, to my knowledge, doesn’t love Jesus. His response, “Well then we need to tell him.” I told him that we probably won’t be able to meet him. So I guess we’ll have to pray.
There are many ways to not “waste the Olympics.” Here’s just one: Pull for winners, but remember to pray for the losers. They’ve just had their walls broken down but they need their hearts to be made alive (Eph 2:1). As a family, we’ll pull for Phelps (Lochte is way too arrogant) to win, but we’ll pray that his losses, and/or even his medals, will only lead to his ultimate gain (Phil 3:8).
Whether the athletes win or lose, here is a fitting verse to pray for the athletes and thus participate in the games, even as you spectate.
“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ”-Phil 3:8