Going For Gold
Though I am feeling fine – healthy as an ox, really – I know that in a few short days, I’m going to have a fever. More specifically, “Olympic Fever”, baby!!! I am a total nerd for the Olympics. There’s just something about the competition and the ability to root for your country. Sometimes, it’s after watching the individual profiles on the athletes and then seeing them compete (after overcoming some personal heartbreak or set-back earlier in their career, of course) that I get even more vested in the games. I find myself inspired by them in my own amateur pursuits as a runner. Simply put, I’m a sucker for great athletic performances.
In my life, I’ve actually met 2 Gold Medal winners. The first is Amanda Borden, who was on the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team in 1996. I met her on a red-eye flight to Pittsburgh in 1998. She was very approachable and nice, considering it was about 5 in the morning when we landed. The other is swimmer, Misty Hyman, who won the gold in the 200m Butterfly in Sydney, Australia (2000). I met her earlier this Spring. She too was very approachable and personable. Like I mentioned, I’m a runner. Not a swimmer. Definitely not a gymnast. And still, I can look at those 2 encounters and recognize being inspired… being a little bit in awe… and beyond impressed with the amount of dedication and commitment they both made in their lives to not only live out their dreams, but also achieve greatness so few us of, er, I mean, “them” ever will. I watch the Olympic games and am inspired by athletic performance and achievement, knowing that I will never have the same experience.
How many of us treat our faith that way? How many of us look at the lives of the saints and the lives of those around us that we find inspiring and say, “That is an incredible journey they’re on. Good for them. I can never do that.”? How many of us look at the dedication and commitment needed on our part and think that Holiness is so beyond our reach, we have a better chance at winning an Olympic gold medal?
Probably most of us.
The problem with this line of thinking is two-fold. First, when we look at others and immediately discount ourselves, we are no longer treating our faith as a journey, but rather a competition where there can only be one winner. “I’m not as ‘Holy’ as that Saint. I don’t pray as much as she does. I don’t serve the Church as much as he does.” God’s love for us knows no limits and is for us all, individually, as His sons and daughters. When it comes to YOU, He’s not concerned with the others. Eternity with Him is not a prize for few, but rather, has been ransomed for all.
The second problem with this way of thinking is that the pressure is on you and I to be so incredibly awesome in our devotion to God, that the Holiness and Spirituality will just ooze out of us without reservation and if we don’t then we’re doing something wrong. The reality is that our walk with the Lord is just that: it’s “with the Lord”. Praise God we have Him who desires to walk with us and provide for us when our humanity gets in the way. We’re not by ourselves. We are not alone on our journey and thus, the pressure is not on us to be perfect in how we live out our faith, but rather, to be open to Him working in our lives.
It’s not about perfection – it’s about reflection! Reflecting & sharing God’s love that He has for us is our mission. The “prize” we should be seeking is that ongoing encounter with the living God and His people, culminating in the ultimate podium award – not standing and hearing the National Anthem being played but rather, being embraced by Jesus at the end of our lives and being told, “Well done, my good and faithful servant” (Mt 25:23). May you continue to be inspired by and share God’s greatness! Oh right, and… go Team U.S.A.!!!