Olympic glory goes to athletes ... and to God

danielgriswold@gmail.comAugust 14, 2012 

Weren't the female gymnasts amazing? These teen sensations captivated the whole country during the Olympics.

I'll be honest, I wasn't really interested in the actual sport of gymnastics. I would not have watched much of it at all, in fact, except my wife was fascinated and as she nudged me I began to appreciate the amazing detail and hard work that goes into making these two- to three-minute routines so perfect. And when they weren't so perfect? I appreciated even more how intensely these young women trained and how specialized the sport really is.

One of the five, Gabby Douglas, really made an impression as she flew higher, moved faster and wowed the audiences in London, winning multiple gold medals. I took a moment to look up her profile and found out that she has been training to be a gymnast since age 6. She persuaded her mother to enroll her in a program and by age 8 she was winning competitions in the Virginia area. If her pure athleticism doesn't already impress us, then her commitment and passion should grab at our hearts and challenge us all.

It would be difficult to separate her faith from that passion and, like many athletes who have accomplished great feats, Gabby took a moment to thank God: "It is everything I thought it would be; being the Olympic champion, it definitely is an amazing feeling. And I give all the glory to God. It's kind of a win-win situation. The glory goes up to him, and the blessings fall down on me."

I let that soak in a bit, thinking of the context. This young lady, who has dedicated her life to a singular driving passion and profession; who has just shown audiences that her talents are the best in the world; who has pushed through the pain of practice after practice, pushed past any humiliations or failures; and who is now about to mount a podium, does not think to herself, "This was all me."

Instead she points to her faith in a glorious God.

My small way of relating to the Olympic athletes is through my love-hate relationship with running. The more I run, the better I feel, but simultaneously, the more I run the more I ache -- temporarily. And when I get good at running I go out more and I run harder and longer over time. Then, in times of busyness, I fall into a state of disrepair, and my wife eventually informs me that I need to exercise. I do not want to, but I am prodded by a higher power (in this case the love of my life) to do better and keep moving. She gets me out with her, and we begin anew a process of growth, pain and betterment.

Now I imagine myself in Gabby's place, though this is merely conjecture: I've achieved a level of excellence so far above what normal athleticism requires that there are only a handful of people in the world who are capable of matching what I am capable of doing. In that sphere, we are in competition every time we see each other, and while we want to cheer each other on, we are always jockeying for our place in the hierarchy.

From where do I receive true affirmation? Where can I find and unconditional love? Who can understand the separation (or holiness) that reaching this platform achieves? Who is even greater than myself? Who looks at me and sees who I truly am? Who created me and gave me the ability to grow so greatly?

Gabby let us all know that she has been blessed and that truly, in all good things, God is there and shines in glory.

Columnist Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him at twitter.com/dannonhill. Read his blog at www.danielgriswold.wordpress.com.

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