The Gold Within
The Olympics in Rio was a highlight of the summer. Who could choose a favorite Olympian: Usain Bolt, the fastest man on earth, Simone Biles, the mythic gymnast, or the indomitable Michael Phelps in the pool? Every night we watched in awe as these athletes exhibited great courage, determination, poise, humility, and finally, joy as they achieved their gold dreams.
But just as inspiring as the actual events were the human stories of these athlete’s in their quests for gold: the hundreds, if not thousands, of lonely hours spent in training, the short-term setbacks, the painful injuries, the cruel disappointments, the challenging relationships and the silent struggles of faith.
Maybe you and I may never stand beneath the four rings, wear the olive branch diadem and accept our gold medallions for athletic achievement, but this life will indeed provide each of us with our own metaphorical mat, track, or pool in which to test and hone our inner gold. Just like the race to the Olympics, the race of life demands superhuman inner strength, badge upon badge of courage, a deep inner reservoir of hope, a capacity for love that can move mountains and a grounding of faith that keeps us upright when life tries its best to knock us off our feet.
It is work being human and this life requires true spiritual athleticism.
The reality: we can give our very best in our marriages, parenting, work, health and spiritual life and still come up short. We can suffer great heartbreaks with wounds that are slow to heal. We can fall down, get back up, only to fall down again. We can struggle in secret with fears of what’s ahead and if there is indeed a divine plan in place where all will work out for good. Not only does this life test all that we are, but also pushes us to be more than we ever conceived we could be. Every day we must choose to rise to the occasion or throw in the towel. And yet, I believe there are traces of gold deep inside every single one of us waiting to be mined. (Scientists would confirm my hypothesis: 0.2 milligrams of gold to be exact).
What I really mean is that God has provided us with glints of courage, hope, strength, creativity, resilience and a capacity to love in which to prevail against whatever obstacles are placed in our path. And more importantly, live lives of great meaning, value and joy. But as in the Olympics and in life, we have to dare to dig deep to discover who we are and what we are made of. Even more important, we have to learn how to ask in prayer for supernatural assistance when we find ourselves out of our league and in need of the strength, wisdom and love of a higher being.
How do we know we are brave, if not for the trials? How do we practice faith without a dark night of the soul to question God and all that we believe? How do we experience true love until we have sacrificed everything we hold dear for it?
Sometimes I worry what God might say to me (and to you) after a day on life’s mat: Are you really trying your hardest in mind, body and spirit to be kind, merciful and loving in the world? Why do you play it so safe? Can you honestly say that you are living a life worthy of My breath? What’s holding you back from your dreams, living your best version of yourself and love, great love? Why don’t you trust me in that last lap when every muscle of your spirit quivers and you don’t think you can finish? I’ll always see you through.
Nothing in life that is precious and of any true value comes without the grind, the sacrifice, the loss and the redemption. You don’t get a place on the podium without pushing through the hurt and disappointment, rising to meet life’s difficult challenges, holding on to hope at the edge of despair, and trusting you are not alone–God is with you.
More and more, I am convinced that we are not here for our own pleasure, but to learn how to dig deep, face our fears, accept our flaws with humility, be willing to sacrifice our own needs and desires for the betterment of another, be not so afraid to fail, and relish, relish, relish the whole of the human experience.
Life is the mighty training ground to evolve the spirit. There is nothing as rewarding and life-affirming as being surprised by our own resilience, depth of hope, capacity for love and the beauty and strength of our inner being.
Recently, I had the gift of meeting someone who exemplifies a true Olympian spirit. Her name is Glennon Doyle Melton and she is a self-proclaimed warrior that would make the Greeks of the first Olympics many millenniums ago proud. She has the unmistakable glow of gold radiating from her center. Not only is she an accomplished mother, author, blogger and social activist, but she knows something about the tough work of being human. Read her books and you’ll find a woman not afraid to dig deep for her inner gold in the face of life’s trials and heartbreaks. Her story, eloquently spun in Carry On and Love Warrior is a tale of one little resurrection by grace after another. She has a tenacious soul and is not afraid to share her story: the soul bruises, the betrayals and the dark nights of the soul. But these are the stories that we need to hear because they encourage us on in our own life’s race. They show us that if we just keep going, lifting our eyes to the sun, and digging deeper for that inner gold, we too will persevere and find our place on the podium.
If only there was an Olympics for the spiritual athlete inside each of us: We step out on the mat of life with courage, fierce hope and a faith in God to face whatever this life throws at us. We don’t give up. We hold on to hope. We believe God is on our side. We strive for inner joy. We win! The heavens erupt in applause!
Wherever you are in your spiritual olympic journey, never doubt: The gold lies within!
Live in Hope,