Isaiah 43:7 everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”
The closing ceremonies draw to a conclusion with the extinguishing of the flame; the Olympic athletes who stood center stage become faded memories. Most athletes had spent every waking moment over the past four years preparing for the greatest athletic event on earth. Others had spent their whole life competing in the sport they loved and even made multiple appearances on the grandest of stages as Olympians. What an incredible experience and accomplishment; but what happens when its all over?
I read a revealing article from a former Olympian that was both sad and telling. Thomas Hall, in When the Games Are Over, is now a writer who contributes to Canadian Geographic and the Toronto Star, but in 2012 he was at the start line of the 2012 Olympic sprint canoe-kayak trials, on the road to defend his 2008 bronze medal in Beijing. Something happened that day though – Hall recognized that he had lost his passion. After finishing seventh he realized he no longer had the desire to continue in racing. “Twenty training sessions a week on the water, in the gym, and on the track. The schedule I had lived for almost two decades was over”.
Now what? Hall realized that he had no clue of what would come next. He had done everything from the age of fifteen to thirty to make his Olympic dream happen, but he had done nothing to prepare himself for what came next. This led to depression, weight gain and a general sense of purposelessness. While the article ended on a much more positive note, as Hall did find new purpose, it made me think of the dangers that lurk even for elite Christian athletes.
What is your purpose on this earth? As an athlete you need to have a biblically sound answer to that question. The answer cannot be to get that full-ride scholarship, to win an Olympic gold medal, or to become a professional athlete. God may use those as tools to accomplish his purposes, but they can never be your end goal, or else one day when it all ends you will be left wanting like Thomas Hall.
In Isaiah 43:7 God refers to “everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made”. We are purposed for God’s glory. And we “are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10).
I believe God get’s some pleasure from watching us compete in the sports we love, but his ultimate pleasure is watching us partake with him in the “good works” he prepared for us. If you take time to contemplate it, it is incredible that the God of the universe invites us to partake in his plans here on earth. Jesus dying on the cross (John 3:16) was God’s ultimate plan of redemption for a lost world, and we are invited to share that message, share that love with a lost and desperate world. Understand that you were created to glorify God and purpose to seek him diligently to find out how he intends for you to do that, and what “good works” he has prepared in advance for you to do. Only then will you find true peace, contentment and purpose. May your purpose and identity never become tied up in who you are as an athlete. You are so much more in Christ!