There was a time in the not too distant past when many of the best scientists, writers, artists, laborers, academics and musicians saw their work as a way of glorifying God. The God who gave them their talents. The God, without whom, there would be nothing at all.
Today, such thinking stands out as antiquated or strange. Life is about the glorification of self. We do the work. We get the glory. Our successes are our own, but so are our failures. Our radical individualism leads to both oversized egos and despair.
But not this week at the Olympics. In sport, there is still a strong undercurrent of faith. Perhaps, it’s because athletes are forced on a regular basis to confront their limitations both spiritually and physically. Perhaps, it’s because public expressions of faith are still acceptable in less developed countries like Fiji and Jamaica. Whatever the reason, it’s been tough to keep up with the storylines. Athletes who believe were everywhere, using their gifts, and thanking God.
From Michael Phelps speaking candidly about turning his life around after reading Pastor Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life, to the US Women’s track team praying in gratitude after their gold medal relay win. (How great is Tori Bowie?) From the Fiji Men’s rugby team singing a hymn, to Katie Ledecky praying a Hail Mary, to Usain Bolt making the sign of the cross, to Simone Biels carrying her rosary, to Elena Delle Donne wearing her cross. Faith was on display, across the board, all week, and not only in victory.
Who can forget Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross coming back from defeat, to win the bronze? Or Abby D’Agostino helping up her New Zealand competitor after a fall, which cost them both the race. She encouraged her to finish. Later, she said of the moment, “God prepared my heart to respond that way. This whole time here he’s made clear to me that my experience in Rio was going to be about more than my race performance.”
It’s been an awe-inspiring Olympics, and all I can say is thanks.