All that's left is the grand finale!
All that’s left is the grand finale! And if it’s anything like the spectacular opening extravaganza, the 29th Olympiad will go down in history as the most memorably choreographed sporting event of all time. Certainly the world’s kudos rightly belong to Beijing and the 1.3 billion member family of China. So what shall we take away from this two-week celebration of youth and physical prowess? Over the course of the games I’ve scribbled onto a yellow pad a few life lessons. Here are a handful:
1. Be a good sport. She wasn’t young Michael Phelps with his record eight gold medals. But even the three silver medals of 41-year-old mother and swimmer Dara Torres (the oldest swimmer on record to medal) were outshined by the genuinely gracious way she congratulated the winners with a dripping hug after each race, proving that even in losing, good sports always win. Ephesians 5:32—“Be kind and compassionate to one another.”
2. Don’t brag about yourself. Perhaps the greatest swimming race of all time pitted the U.S. men’s 400 meter free style relay team against the favorites of another nation, who unfortunately boasted beforehand to the press that they were going to “smash” their opponent. As fate would have it, they were a split second behind the young Americans. Proverbs 27:2—“Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth.”
3. Become a team player. Superstars are memorable, but there’s nothing like being on a team! What’s more thrilling than sharing the fete with a team of members who combined their gifts and energies into a group win? Ecclesiastes 4:9, 12—“Two are better than one. . . . Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
4. Life isn’t fair. The most successful gymnastics coach in history, Bela Karolyi, exploded to Bob Costas of NBC over the egregious (to him) judging error that cost one of the coeds he was cheering a gold medal. Who was right? We’ll never know. Not everything in life is fair or deserved. Being able to go on in spite of it is a mark of maturity. Philippians 4:11—“I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances” (Message).
5. Everybody needs a coach. No matter how good you may be at what you do, there is somebody who can help you be even better. Physically, academically, professionally and spiritually—ask someone to share the journey with you. John 14:16—“‘And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever.’”
6. What’s most important is never seen. Remember that the handful of minutes Michael Phelps spent racing (and winning) in the pool is dwarfed by the four long grueling years of daily training far away from the spotlight. What counts most in any life isn’t the public glare—it’s the very private and consistent practice that always pays off. Luke 5:16—“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
7. Let your Father be your trainer. Did you know that three of the top U.S. gymnasts are coached by their parents? Nastia Liukin, winner of the all-round gymnastics gold medal, has her father Valeri to thank, himself a gold medalist in the 1988 Games. For when your Father is already a Winner, how could you possibly go wrong? Ephesians 3:14—“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family derives its name.”
The 29th Olympiad ends in a few hours. But the race of life stretches before us all. And thanks to Jesus Christ, it’s the one race that everybody who enters can win. Let’s go!