I am completely obsessed with the 2012 London Olympics. It is because of the “perfect storm” of my life: being on a stay-cation (vacation at home), having mobile devices (iPad, iPhone) and the live streaming capability of seeing it all wherever I am. I barely remember the last two Summer Olympics because we were neck deep in summer ministry. For the Beijing Olympics, I only got to see Michael Phelps win his 8 gold metals (I’m not complaining- it was pretty awesome). We were doing Sin City Outreach at the City Impact Center in Las Vegas. At the end of those very long, hot days I would huddle around this huge TV in a tiny condo living room and watch whatever was on. With a sleepy 6 year old and a hyped up 8 year old (Justin is never tired) we cheered Phelps on and felt that magical moment of knowing you just watched history being made. But that was it- I pretty much missed everything else.
All that to say- I am really enjoying the London Olympics and the time I have to get into them. I have no idea what my life will look like in four years. Life seasons change quickly. I might miss the next ones too. I know that my oldest son will be 16 (ek!), my baby will be 14 years old and I will have been married for 22 years. I know that I will be pursuing my purpose wholeheartedly and passionately equipping women to go after theirs. That is about it. That is all I can know and even then, the future is a mystery.
As I watch the Olympians go after their dreams, I am inspired and moved by their stories. I cheered on Ryan Lochte as he won his gold and held my breath on the team relay to see them grasp the silver. My heart just broke with Jordyn Wieber, the reigning World Champ Gymnast, when I watched the realization come over her face that she would not move on to compete for the all around gold metal. Even knowing what happens (because of twitter and live streaming) doesn’t lesson the impact of watching that moment.
It is another reminder that we just don’t know what life will bring us. Jordyn said bravely just moments after grappling with reality, “It is what it is.” For Jordyn, this experience is more about a test of her character rather than a test of her ability. She is clearly the reigning World Champ and one of the best gymnasts in the world. Bela Karolyi says that her character is the stuff of champions as well. We will see. She comes back to compete in the team and individual next few days.
When life throws us those kind of brutal curve balls, we find out that the real race isn’t to get a gold but to allow God to forge our character into pure gold.
“But He knows the way that I take; When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10 NKJV)
I am as inspired by how the athletes come back after a loss as I am by how they rejoice in the win. I am inspired by their passion, their sacrifice, their focus and the character that is forged by it all.
I don’t know how Michael Phelps will do in these games but I loved what his coach Bob Bowman said about him, “I don’t know if Michael is coming back to these games as a better swimmer but I know he is coming back a better person, he has matured.”
That, I think is the truest definition of going for the gold.
Photograph: Julia Hoyle/PA