Being defined by more than our performance, reflections on the Olympics

Like so many, I have found myself watching the Olympics as we all do when it rolls around every four years. It is an odd thing how many sports that hold absolutely no interest for me during the intervening years can captivate me for the span of a few weeks. Will I continue to follow water polo, volleyball, or track and field? No. But have I been watching it? Yes.

As exciting as it is to watch, I can’t help but think that the athletes must be under tremendous pressure and could be so easily tempted to see their value and worth as directly correlated to their medal haul. They train for years for one event that can be over in just a matter of seconds. That sounds like an awful moment. If I stick this landing, I am good. If I can be the fastest, I’ll be remembered and will make someone proud. But what if I fail?

Maroney’s landing, taken from USA Today.

Just seconds determines the way you are seen. Fractions of a second dictate whether your years of dedication and sacrifice are worth it. Do we remember fourth place finishers (or even silver medalists)? Are teams that bow out in early rounds of tournaments received back home the same way as if they had lifted the nation with victory? Is US Gymnast, McKayla Maroney, who was seen as a lock for gold on the vault, but who fell in her landing dropping her to silver, going to be able to shake the disappointment? These are mere moments that are allowed to define entire lifetimes.

In an article on USA Today on women in the olympics an IOC member made this statement, “If you’re successful, they don’t care about your gender, they care about whether you won gold, silver or bronze for your country. No one is talking negatively about gender here, they are talking about success.” In a statement about the progress of women she reveals what still is a difficult truth. What matters is success.

Paul in Romans pushes against this notion. It is not our success that matters. We can’t let our works define us. If we are going to allow one event to determine our worth, if we want one moment to define us, let it be the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for us. We can’t live under the burden of performance and demands of perfection, like those of the law. On the cross Christ put to death those demands. So now in Christ we can benefit from his perfection. If one moment should define us, let it be the cross.

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