I love watching the Olympics even though I’m not an athlete. I’m not even an amateur athlete—my sports intake is every couple of years during the Olympics. So I don’t worry about anything as cumbersome as rules. I deduce the sport’s expectation and just watch the athletes performing their craft.
The Olympics reminds me of the race I’m running on the pathway to eternal life. The athletes’ complete commitment and tenacity to reach for their goals reminds me to dust off my goals, check my progress, and recommit to run further, faster, longer until that pace becomes my comfort zone.
The Path of Peace
I’m a huge Michael Phelps fan. Not because I comprehend the personal sacrifices he’s made to reach the pinnacle of athleticism, but because I admire his drive and determination. His comeback story inspires me.
Everyone can feel on top one day and hit rock bottom another. But, Michael chose to be a champion again. He chose determination, rehab, and hard work rather than spiraling out of control. He said this Olympics means more than any other because of the inner peace he found.
I have no idea if Michael Phelps is at all religious, but his comments about inner peace reminded me of Jeremiah 29:11-14. It’s one of my favorites, when I need a peace go-to scripture. At the Lord’s command, Jeremiah prophesied 70 years of captivity in Babylon. Israel knew it would face captivity and bondage. We do, too, don’t we? The Lord promised redemption.
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”
The above verses are often quoted—and rightly so–but I absolutely love verse 14. “And I will be found of you, saith the Lord: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the Lord; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive.”
I can see this redemption. I can feel this redemption for Israel then and for myself now. Parts of my soul have been scattered, because of my choices. I have been in captivity, because of my choices. I have been driven away, because of my choices. But, the Lord promises that He will be found, He Can be found. He Wants to be found. He hears my cry and runs to me when I seek Him. And He gathers, and then heals, all of my broken, addicted parts and brings me again to His place, my place of inheritance, my holy Jerusalem.
Suddenly all of my personal sacrifices to strive for complete obedience and to run my race to the best of my ability seem insignificant. He makes up the difference for the gap between my best and what’s required. And in spite of abysmal failures, He offers Atonement and Sacrament and Covenant. And shockingly, He promises “then shall [she] be crowned with the crown of His glory, to sit on the throne of His power to reign forever and ever.”
Being an Inspiration to Follow
Swimmer Simone Manuel swam a gold medal race, becoming the first African-American to medal in an individual event. She praised God and gave Him the glory and said, “This medal is not just for me…it’s for all the people after me who believe they can’t do it and I just want to be an inspiration to others that you can do it.”
What a great attitude! Such a champion’s mindset—If you want to feel the joy and satisfaction that I feel, I know the way. I know the path you need to take. And then, you can experience my victory and I will delight in your victory.
I applaud Simone, but know, realistically that I’m not ready or willing to follow her athletically. But, she promised that I can do things I’m unsure of. I can do things I never believed I could. She can be an inspiration to start doing something I put on a shelf out of fear or insecurity, or whatever excuse.
There is Another who offers such inspiration.
Twenty years ago, I wrote the following quote by Howard W. Hunter in my scriptures. “The question for us now is—will we succeed? Will we resist? Will we wear the victor’s crown? Satan may have lost Jesus, but he does not believe he has lost us. He continues to tempt, taunt, and plead for our loyalty. We should take strength for this battle from the fact that Christ was victorious not as a God but as a man.”
Throughout my life, most people focus on Jesus Christ’s Godhood—which is a critical piece of our salvation! But, I’m fascinated by verses that seem to talk about the Savior’s mortal, bodily experience, like these references:
“And He said unto them, ye will surely say unto Me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself.”
“As many were astonished at thee—His visage was so marred, more than any man, and His form more than the sons of me.”
“He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. … we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.”
“And He shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith He will take upon Him the pains and the sicknesses of His people… and He will take upon Him their infirmities, that His bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that He may know according to the flesh how to succor His people according to their infirmities.”
I know that during His Atonement, Jesus suffered for sins, pains, sicknesses, and griefs. But, these scriptures, and others, seem to indicate life-long physical affliction as well. He didn’t experience Satan on the Mount of Transfiguration and that was it. He, as a mortal man, overcame a lifetime of EVERY temptation to be victorious.
And so I can trust Him when I see Him beckoning with compassion and understanding. “And He said to them all, if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”
Standing With Confidence
Like I mentioned, I react to Olympic sports based on what I see and feel, rather than critiquing technical skill—because I can’t relate to the technical skills specifically, but I see the overall effect of the technical skills.
Swimming is a hard sport to really see the technical nuances. I just watched for who lead the race and oohed and awed at the finishes and reactions and records broken.
But gymnastics is different. I’m not sure I can think of anything more vulnerable than flipping and twisting on a four inch beam. Every bobble is visible. Even couch potato non-athletes notice every misstep as a gymnast battles for balance. And falling on the landing? Even I know that’s not good.
While watching to final two rotations of the Women’s individual all-around surprised me. Here were skilled, proficient women competing on the Olympic stage. But I felt so much uncertainty and uneasiness as three of the five gymnasts performed on the balance beam. Ultimately, the two confident gymnasts won the silver and gold medals.
After her fantastic, silver medal clenching floor routine, Aly Raisman’s reaction showed she knew how well she did. She didn’t apologize for doing better than others who went before her. She didn’t even seem to worry about the piles of people watching her in person and on TV. She knew her routine. She understood Olympic pressure. She reached inside her soul and pulled out her best floor exercise ever. And as the last note of her music faded away, she cried with satisfaction. She KNEW she’d just accomplished her goal of an Olympic medal.
The commentators constantly said Simone Biles had become the best gymnast ever. Ever, I thought? Wow. That is amazing pressure to be competing under. The best ever. And she absolutely wowed and astonished me. Wow! Wow! I kept shouting at the TV.
She flew through the air with confidence. She did the roundy turny things on the balance beam with confidence. She even wore her awesome glitter eye shadow with confidence. And she accepted the accolades saying she just did her best and was happy to contribute to the team and the USA.
And then, I loved this, while being compared to celebrated champions, Simone Biles said, “I’m not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps, I’m the first Simone Biles.” Wow! Wow! Wow!
“Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward.”
“And now…abide in Him; that, when He shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.”
Gaining that confidence is a step-by-step process. Keeping the commandment is an important step. Then we can have access to the Holy Ghost who tells us how better to keep the commandments and draws our hearts to a relationship with the Lord. As we hear, and act, we do become more confident—because we know that God be for us!
And, this verse comes to mind a lot. It contains the mission theme for my mission, the Scotland Edinburgh Mission.
“Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.
The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.”
Whether we know it or not, we are running a race. Personally, my speeds vary. My feelings of inner peace vary. My confidence levels vary. So I look to champions to remember that I am a champion, too. I’m grateful for those, present and past, who inspire me to run my race.
So what do you think?
“Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.”
I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have moved 64 times and have not tired of experiencing this beautiful earth! I love the people, languages, histories/anthropologies, & especially religious cultures of the world. My life long passion is the study & searching out of religious symbolism, specifically related to ancient & modern temples. My husband Anthony and I love our bulldog Stig, adventures, traveling, movies, motorcycling, and time with friends and family.