Hope you’ve had a wonderful official start to summer! I’ve had an especially meaningful week in some respects, and a hard couple days in others. Isn’t that the way? Life is full of profound, complex sorrows and indescribable joys. Sometimes the proximity of these would-be bookends is striking.
Still, I want to continue with my Patriot series. One thing that was conspicuously absent at Olympic Trials was relays. For me, swimming relays are the pinnacle of sport. To see teammates cheering each other on to overcome rivals is the absolute best. I know why too. It’s because the individual glory is gone. There’s no hint of envy. It’s all about the effort as a team.
“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” Romans 12:3-5 NIV
You have God-given gifts. So do I. Guess what? They are not the same. We need to recognize how God has shaped us for His purposes. If your foot longed to be a hand instead, it wouldn’t make a useful hand. And it wouldn’t be a good foot either. As Socrates put it, so succinctly, “Envy is the ulcer of the soul.”
Who or what do you envy? How can you remind yourself that you are on a relay? Your leg of the race is vital and unique. God made you specifically for your part and your time.
I hope you run your race this weekend and always, knowing God has a specific role just for you.
I hope you’ve had a lovely week. It was a gorgeous one here in Tennessee, with lots of blue skies.
It’s been fun to watch some Olympic Trials too. The athletes that make the team headed for Tokyo immediately sign their name on a Japanese drum. What an honor! And in swimming, since it’s 100% objective, no one signs that drum without years and years of hard work and dedication.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the hardworking Kayla Han makes the team in three years. It’s rather confusing how it works this year, so I’ve explained it in the P.S. below. But at Wave I of Olympic Trials, I screamed my head off for Kayla. Like my son, she had qualified for the Trials just a couple weeks before. In the morning, she swam fast enough to make the B final in the 400 Individual Medley, which is just a brutal race. The swimmers dive in and swim two 50 meter laps of butterfly, then backstroke, then breaststroke. They finish with freestyle. Kayla was trailing until the last 50 meters. At the last minute, she turned on the jets, caught the leaders and then touched the wall first. I was going ballistic! I went back and watched her televised race a few nights ago and was a little surprised that my incessant screaming could not be heard. I imagine someone somewhere has video of the tall woman losing her mind, and her voice.
Before that morning I’d never heard of Kayla, but you might have joined me in madly cheering for her if you knew two things. First, every swimmer at Trials wears a pricey, high tech racing suit – every swimmer except Kayla.
The other tidbit that might make you love Kayla? She is only thirteen years old, and the youngest swimmer at Trials. In fact, when she got her Olympic Trials cut she was still twelve. She’d only been thirteen for a few days. The bright lights. The pressure. The pomp and circumstance. The universal use of top-of-the-line racing suits. None of this could intimidate her. She rocked it. I hope she goes to Paris in 2024 because she’s already one of my favorites.
America breeds dreamers with perseverance. Most Americans are reluctant to tell someone “You can’t do that!” There are notable exceptions of course, but the majority of us like to encourage audacious goals. We might caution, “That would require a lot of work.” But the American spirit is one that fights, one that sacrifices, one that sees the obstacles and still turns on the jets. And Americans, like all of humanity, absolutely love an underdog.
Why do we? Have you taken a few minutes to think about why we love underdogs? I know why. It’s because the story that most defines us and most liberates us is the ultimate underdog story. Our Savior was born in a stable. He wasn’t privileged. His family fled murderous persecution. He wasn’t remarkably handsome. Most of His life was quiet. He didn’t travel hardly at all. He worked construction. But He won the biggest victory of all. He beat death. He beat it for you. He beat it for me. He beat death for the whole world.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
I hope you believe in the ultimate underdog. He is the way, the truth and the life, today and forever.
P.S. To make the U.S. Olympic Team for swimming you must race in and win at the Trials. You can also make the team by placing second. For relays they take as many as six swimmers. But the maximum number of swimmers is 26 men and 26 women, and theoretically you could have less if our fastest swimmers didn’t achieve an Olympic cut. This never happens in the U.S. because we have the world’s fastest swimmers.
This year the trials-qualifying swimmers were broken up into two groups, or “waves.” Wave II which is going on now, is where the winner of the final for each event makes the team and signs the drum. Kayla and Will swam at Wave I and could’ve only moved on to Wave II by getting first or second in the A final. Will got 5th. Kayla won the B Final. But I’m liking their chances in 2024.
I hope you are well. I’ve kicked off summer 2021 in a most patriotic way. Last week Sam and I visited Mount Rushmore and then met up with Will to attend Wave I of the U.S. Olympic Trials. Our son, Will, was swimming at the meet — which is the ultimate dream of many young swimmers. It was such an incredible week, and I have so many thoughts about it, that I can’t possibly put them in a single post of reasonable length. Hence, my series.
When I was a littlegirl my dad accused me of being unAmerican. What was my offense? I hated both hamburgers and corn-on-the-cob. Sadly I have never overcome my distaste for burgers. But I think, overall, my dad would agree — I’m pretty patriotic.
Are you? Would you consider yourself a patriotic person? I think something has been lost in recent days. I am not patriotic because I think any person is worthy of worship. Only Jesus is. I am not patriotic because I endorse every action or statement of our Founding Fathers. Clearly they were all sinners and so deeply flawed that it’s hard to relate to the travesty of slavery. But at the same time our government was laid out with a system of checks and balances —a level of wisdom that has withstood tremendous pressures and trials. How can any lover of freedom fail to acknowledge that the bones of our government are elegant, enduring, inspiring, and wise? We don’t tear down homes with great bones, and houses are insignificant when compared to systems of government. I cannot relate to the masses aimed at destruction. I wish they could all visit Rushmore and read the words of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt. I wish they could all attend an event where athletes aim to make the U.S. Olympic team.
Yet it feels as though the dominant voices are voices of victimhood, voices that fail to look at alternatives, voices that rarely, if ever, model biblical wisdom: it is to YOUR glory to overlook an offense.
Really the heart of the matter is gratitude.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17
I believe being born an American is a good gift from my Heavenly Father. And I never want to take it for granted.
I hope you won’t either. I hope you’ll always try to recognize and acknowledge all the gifts you’ve been given, and then use them for His glory.
P.S. I listened to this sermon from Tim Keller twice this week and highly recommend it. In it Keller has an almost C.S. Lewis type of vibe, where he explains complicated concepts in such simple and compelling terms that you almost want to laugh and exclaim, “Ahh, of course! How did I not see that before?” The two that tie into the above post are: (1) try as you may, you cannot live under your own authority; and (2) as Aristotle argued, doing leads to knowing, not vice versa. It’s a corollary of Bonhoeffer’s statement that obedience and love are self-reinforcing. In short, sometimes it’s vital to just obey. It gets the ball rolling in unexpected ways.
I hope you are kicking off the best months of the year in a big way. I recently visited a summer hot spot where the hustle of the season demands extra workers. Sam and I had an hour to kill before leaving. As we were wrapping up lunch, I asked our server what she would do with a spare hour.
“Oh,” she smiled, clearly amused. “I’m just here for the summer, so I’ll have to ask a local.”
“Where are you from?” I asked.
“I’m from Jamaica,” she said.
She had no trace of any accent so this surprised me. As I talked with her further, she told me she’s worked on her American accent because she does customer service calls when she’s in Jamaica for Humana.
She came back with my credit card a few minutes later and said she’d asked every co-worker in the restaurant. Then she introduced me to another Jamaican. He told me he’d probably take a somewhat unknown scenic drive and explained how to get there.
“Mmhh,” I said, not thrilled about more driving. “What about that park over there. Is that nice?”
“It’s great,” he said, his native land a whole lot more evident than hers. “They have a piece of the Berlin Wall in that park.”
We saw the Wall! Do you know where we were getting expert local advice from a friendly and wise Jamaican? Yep, South Dakota. Is that not the best?
I think we need to ask more questions. Lots more questions. In all areas of life. There are people who know things that will benefit you immensely. The most useful tidbits may come from unlikely sources. Misleading, even harmful, advice may come from the highly credentialed. Pray for wisdom and ask lots and lots of questions. And may we never cease applying the words of the Apostle Paul from Romans 12:16.
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.
Lord Jesus, forgive me for being wise in my own sight. Help me be humble and ask questions. Thank you for your abundant goodness. Thank you that unlike those behind that terrible wall, I’m free. May I use my freedom for Your glory.