I remember watching the summer Olympics when I was little and rushing outside to do some sort of backflip off the swinging bar on our swing set, scraping a layer of skin from my back on the picnic table underneath and crying when Mom told me I couldn’t try it again.
Those Olympic athletes inspired me. I was moved into action to try it myself, to attempt some sort of dismount with my arms raised high and our dogs applauding by way of panting in the summer heat as Mom watched from the kitchen door.
Now I’m a grown woman, and I’m watching the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang through much older eyes.
I find myself breathing faster when a skier pushes off, barreling down the slopes and reaching seventy-plus miles per hour. I cringe at the heights of those in the half-pipe as they flip and maneuver their bodies in ways I couldn’t even do in our daughter’s bouncy house. And I hold my breath when the ice skaters near the wall as the woman’s body is dangling upside down, mere inches from the ice.
And I cry for them. I cry when I see them collapse after competing knowing they’ve just won the gold medal. And I cry even harder when an athlete lowers her head in her hands, sobbing at the loss after training so hard, after leaving everything she had out there on the slopes, after giving all she had to give. And in a single moment, the prize slipped through her fingers.
Really, I cry because I am deeply moved and still inspired by the fierce determination it takes to be an Olympic athlete; to work hard, to get up when you fall, to keep going when your body is broken, to keep moving toward the goal even when you don’t feel like it, and to use every part of all you have every single day.
I want that fierce determination.
No, I’m not called to be an Olympic athlete or any sort of athlete (unless sliding on the kitchen floor qualifies as a sport). But I am called to be a Christian, to follow Jesus Christ (we all are!), and to really live like one. Not just by name only. It would be like showing up in PyeongChang and expect to compete in figure skating because I’m a human being. Just because I have the basic makeup doesn’t mean I qualify to compete in the Olympics.
Just because I call myself a Christian doesn’t mean I qualify as one. I need to live like one, to live as a fiercely determined Christian and love God more than anyone or anything which means accepting His Son Jesus Christ as my Savior. There are no substitutions. I can’t work my way into Heaven by going to church. God doesn’t care where my backside rests on Sundays. He cares where my heart rests every day of the week. And I can’t squeak by simply by being a good person. Satan doesn’t even mind if I’m a “good person” as long as I’ve shut Jesus out of my life.
And if I want to live like an unwavering Christian, I need to love others deeply, even when they’re not treating me the way I want to be treated.
I need to work hard at studying the Scriptures, so I’m ready when it’s time for me to compete against the enemy.
I need to get back up when I’m discouraged, keep seeking God’s face, and follow the direction of the Holy Spirit and follow through with what He’s been training me to do.
When I’m broken, I need to be still and let God hold me, knowing He is still in control even when things seem to be spinning out of control.
And I must be bold enough to use every part of all I have in this race, to shine for God, to draw others to Him, and remain fiercely determined to work toward the prize that far surpasses any medal of gold: a glorious crown of righteousness and all eternity with my Savior.
“This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:11-12 ESV.)
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8 NIV.)