Happy new year, and happy Olympic year! The past four years have flown by, but on the other hand, I have become a very different athlete and grown so much as a person during that time. I expect a lot of challenges this year, but they won’t the same challenges of 2012, and for that I am grateful. I look forward to navigating this year four years older and wiser in body, mind and spirit.
I have so much excitement over everything I’ve learned in the past years and in recent months - so much hope of weaving it all together for my greatest success and culminating in this Olympic year. Aiming to become a 2-time Olympian, it’s tempting to throw myself completely at my training, letting this goal claim top priority in my life. But I've been warned: where your treasure is, there your heart will also be (Mt 6:21). Where is my treasure? What is it that I truly desire? Through my years of experience I have learned the emptiness of setting my heart on athletic success.
Recently I heard a great illustration comparing exercise and training your soul. A big fad right now is the fitbit. There are a ton of different versions of this wristband which is a fitness tracker and step counter. It’s become a popular motivational tool since you can easily see your steps add up throughout the day while working toward whatever your daily goal is. I’d really love some sort of spiritual fitbit: a reminder that spiritual growth doesn’t just happen, but I have to spend time actually “training” - reading, seeking, thinking about, and talking to God. A reminder that every day my ultimate goal isn’t to become a better athlete, but to become more like Jesus. That’s what the word Christian means: little Christ.
Measuring athletic improvements is so easy: you can see times come down, weight gain or loss, muscle increase and physique “tighten.” Much harder to measure is spiritual progress: the fruit of devotion. How do you quantify improvement in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control? It’s easy to become distracted from what is most important by what can visually be seen. So while everyday I train with my focus on the Olympics, my heart tells me to keep an eternal perspective in mind.
Through a career in athletics, God has helped me to understand my insecurities, and stretch my heart and mind to dream. To not only accept myself but love myself. Training my athletic talent is a great endeavour which I am blessed to call my job, but there is a deeper purpose to my life than any accomplishment in track & field. The Lord has given me something much greater: the opportunity to know Him, my Creator. It is the gift I treasure above everything else. Every day is a choice to make pursuit of God my top priority. My heart’s desire is that when I meet Jesus face to face, I will hear him say "well done, good and faithful servant." This is the success of unmatched value.