I love, love, love the Olympics!! I am partial to the summer events more than winter however I think they are all just grand. Each sport has its own heroes and stories of how each athlete trained and trained and trained to qualify for the games. The two weeks of competition begins with the opening ceremonies, which are full of color, explosive fireworks as well as a sampling of the culture unique to the host country. Then finally the long awaited moment or should I say hours in which the athletes from each participating country enters the arena dressed in the splendor of patriotism as they are led by their country’s flag. To top it off, if you are able to stay awake through all of that, the Olympic flag is carried in and hung as the crowd anticipates the entry of the torch. The flame has traveled from Greece and carried for thousands of miles, through many countries, cities and towns to it’s final resting place at the games. The crowd finally gets their first glimpse of the torchbearer who lights a large caldron that will house the flame until the games are finished. This is all so exciting!
Why are these games between countries so important to watch? Why should we care about the winners or losers? I think the answer lies in their hope of winning but also to perform well to show the world how hard they have worked to become a champion. Athletes have dedicated years of their lives to be able to participate every 4 years in the games. They sacrifice much in their life as they focus on becoming the best. The top contenders, like Simone Biles, the gold medal gymnast, said that because of her training schedule, she has missed important teenage events like homecoming and prom. Each athlete has stories to tell that reflect their dedication to their sport. During the weeks of competition, we find out a lot of the stories about a great many of the athletes. Human-interest stories about the competitors give us a glimpse into their lives. Some athletes carry what seems like the weight of world on their shoulders, like Simone Manuel, who is the first black female swimmer to win gold. EVER. Another athlete from Kosovo, Meljinda Kelmindi, will going home with her country’s first gold medal in women’s Judo These games reach into the heart and lives of so many people beyond the color of their medal.
Sometimes athletes lose their way and need to restart or rewrite their story and the games give them an opportunity to do so. Michael Phelps has won the most medals of all time with 28 medals in all colors. Following the 2012 Olympics, Phelps retired from swimming, which began a long spiral to what he calls the bottom. After 2 DUI’s and 4 weeks in treatment, he realized that he was given an opportunity to change his story. He had been very frustrated with his performance and commitment to his sport at the last Olympics even though he won medals; he did so without a lot of practice. Seriously! It makes me wonder what would have happened with practice? Well he found out at the 2016 games as he reentered the swimming world with a focused mind and heart to take a different path to the gold in Rio. He has successfully rewritten his story in order to finish his awesome career as a competitor. In a recent interview, he was asked if he was finished with swimming and he answered that he was not closing the book on his swimming but starting a new journey.
Haven’t we all had times in our lives when we want a do over? We are all writing our story, which is filled with chapters that have shaped who we are and if we don’t like what we feel and see, we have the ability to rewrite our story. We are not stuck in the midst of our messes. God does it all of the time. Just read the words that are written in 2 Cor. 5:17-19,
“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.”
God wipes our slates clean when we acknowledge the power of reconciliation through Christ. It says, “The old life is gone.” God’s mind is cleared but we continue to carry the burdens of our brokenness with us and we make choices based on the past experiences. We will always be in the same book or story of our lives but we can turn the page to write a new chapter. If I continue to carry the same insecurities that have helped to define my past, then my future will not change. We all know the meaning of insanity, which is doing the same thing over and over expecting new results. Just like when birds fly, free of restrictions, our spirits cannot fly free when they are loaded down with the weight of the past hurts and brokenness. We absolutely cannot run from them but we can certainly learn from them and use them to identify change. Phelps, had to leave his old harmful behaviors in the past, in order to start a new chapter filled with a new attitude and commitment to finding the hope of winning in his future. And now it is the same as he closes the chapter on Olympic competition, he again opens the door to his future filled with hope that he will find his way having learned from the past. If we recognize our hurts, forgive the past; we will be released to start our path into the future with hope. God is already at work rewriting your future.