3 Things To Learn From The Olympic Medal Stand

London 2012 Olympic Games - Athletics - Women's Heptathlon

Have you ever wondered what it looks like when a dream comes true? The Olympics have given us plenty of opportunities to see that exact moment in action.

Have you seen the close-ups of Olympians on the medal stand? the gold medal around the neck?  the flags rising? the anthems playing? We’ve been able to watch these young Olympians softly sing the words they’ve known since they were children, the words they’ve dreamed of singing in this exact setting for nearly as long as they can remember, praying they’ll get the words right. Sometimes a tear escapes an eye and leaves a glistening trail down a cheek.

Almost always a smile breaks out across the face. Usually it’s the irrepressible kind that no amount of self-control can hold back. On their faces you can see relief, satisfaction, accomplishment, and sheer, unadulterated happiness. The medal stand is characterized by  the complete absence of stress; the attempt to savor and soak it all in; the odd look of introspection mixed with the knowledge that the whole world is watching.

One of the good things about the medal stand is that by the time they reach the medal stand, many of the athletes can be hours removed from participation in their events. The experience of the medal stand is different than the joy of crossing the finish line first. There’s greater depth and awareness. The overwhelming joy of the moment has been tempered with a competing flood of other, more lasting emotions.

So what can churches learn from the medal stand? Let me suggest three lessons.

  1. There’s something special about the human spirit. There is a spark inside each of us–a spark of ingenuity, creativity and completeness that is almost always hidden by the weaker parts of our characters, but every so often it breaks through.  We go through so much of life alternately displaying and hiding different parts of ourselves. On the medal stand we can see the whole, and it’s beautiful. On the medal stand, the fragility of our existence is replaced by an overwhelming sense of God-given wholeness and unbreakable accomplishment.
    God is present in every individual.  When the weight of the world is pulled back, God shines through. We can see that on the medal stand. We shouldn’t forget that God is present in each and every person we work with and serve. And we shouldn’t forget that one of our purposes is to help God break through all that hides His presence in our lives.
  2. It’s important to belong to something larger than yourself; to feel a part; to have identity; to be a representative of people you’re proud of and to represent them well. Most Olympians have been competing and winning their entire lives.  But each of them talks about how special it is to wear their countries’ colors—to wear the flag—to have USA emblazoned on their uniforms.
    Belonging to a church shouldn’t be a burden.  We ought to proud of our churches and proud to represent them. And we ought to live in such a way that our churches are proud to have us as representatives.  One of our members recently told me that she has to be careful about how she acts in Atlanta traffic now that she has a Wieuca sticker on her car.  She’s right.
    Of course we’re not just representatives of our local church communities. As Christians we bear Christ’s name, too. When our wills are aligned with God’s will it’s a privilege to claim that identity. We should never let that relationship be a burden to us—or to God.  Claiming Christ’s identity should always be a blessing. We are part of something bigger than ourselves.
  3. Success is a lifelong commitment, not a short term goal. There are no overnight successes. Talent must be joined with dedication, commitment and steady determination. In church that means constant attention toward aligning our wills with God’s will. It means being constantly committed to incremental progress and taking big, giant leaps of faith as often as we can. It means celebrating successes, remembering where we came from, understanding our place in God’s story and pressing on toward goals worthy of the promise of Christ’s kingdom.

Have you ever wondered what it looks like when a dream comes true? In order for a dream to come true, we have to have a dream. What’s your dream?  For your life, for your family, for your church? And what can you do to partner with God to make your dream a reality?  If there’s one thing we can learn from the medal stand, it’s this.  Dreams DO come true.

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