I really enjoyed watching the 2012 London Olympic Games — especially specific events, like volleyball (which is my favorite), gymnastics, swimming, and track and field.
Now, I don’t know about you, but, in addition to all of the sporting events, I loved watching all of the feature and in-focus stories about particular athletes. It brought a much more personal touch to the games and made me want to cheer for the athletes even more.
The other day, as I was out in the garden, completely out of breath, dripping with sweat, and with my leg and arm muscles on fire from digging a trench, I thought about the many life lessons that I, myself, have learned from participating in the world of competitive sports.
So, I decided to share one of the most important lessons I’ve learned, and show how it continues to impact my world, today, as a mom, homeschool teacher, and hobby farmer. Don’t worry if you’re not an athlete, have never set foot in a gym, or don’t even particularly like sports. It doesn’t matter. Don’t we all aspire to work a little harder at what we do, become more determined to overcome obstacles that lie in our way of success, and strive to be the best that we can be?
So, join me as I bring to the surface, one of the most universal lessons and truths, from the world of sports, that I’ve learned over the many years that I spent as a competitive athlete – the lesson of never giving up.
How many times have we all, at one time or another, been faced with a difficult challenge and decision to persevere and keep on going or pack it in and give up? As I was digging that trench, out in one hundred degree heat, muscles burning, dripping with sweat, I faced that very decision. I was tired. I was hot. I was hurting, and the last thing I really wanted to do was finish the job. Yet, in the back of my mind, a little voice just kept saying, “Keep on going. Don’t give up. You can do it!” I know it sounds silly. It’s not like I was trying to complete the marathon at the London Olympics, right? Yet, that is the first lesson that sports instilled in me — develop a spirit that never wants to give up.
If you watched the London Games, you may have seen the race with the Chinese hurdler, Liu Xiang, who was among the favorites to win gold in the 110m hurdles, this year. Tragedy of tragedies! He failed to clear the very first hurdle, and went down with an achilles tendon rupture (I can tell you from experience, that is an extremely painful injury!) Yet, instead of quitting the race, Liu hopped all the way down the track, on his good leg, and stopped only to kiss the final hurdle before crossing the finish line — he never gave up! It was a moment that will probably never be forgotten in Olympic history, and one that will stick with him for the rest of his life.
So, how does this lesson, from the world of sports, intersect with and impact a person’s life? Well, I can tell you that, now, as a mom, homemaker, homeschool teacher, and farmer who is far removed from the world of competitive sports, that lesson still has great bearing on my life. When I’m faced with cleaning yet another pile of dirty dishes, or a huge stack of papers that need to be corrected, or another trench that needs to be dug, I apply this very lesson, and I never give up! I Keep on going. I Persevere because I know that there is a reward waiting, for me, in the end (a clean kitchen, an empty file, a bed that is ready for planting), and it propels me forward to complete that next great task that lies before me.
Yet, as I’ve been writing, and given more thought to it, I’ve decided that, for me, it even goes much deeper than that…
You see, one of the many things that I do in my spare time (yes, I actually do have some of that) is study the Bible. Guess what? It has a lot to say on this topic of perseverance and never giving up.
For example, Galatians 6:9 says, “let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”
One of my favorite verses is James 1:2-4, which says, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
And, likewise, Romans 5:3-5 says, “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame…”
Matthew Henry, an esteemed Bible commentator explains that, “It is by tribulation that we make an experiment of our own sincerity”, and that “being thus tried…[we] will thereby be encouraged to hope.”
What does that have to do with sports and life lessons? Well, when Liu Xiang fell at the beginning of his race, according to Henry, his sincerity was being tested. Was he sincere about competing as a representative for his home nation? Was he sincere about finishing the race? Was he sincere about completing the task he had gone there to finish? Yes, he was! He got up, continued on, finished the race, and, in the end, absolutely “encouraged hope” – not only in himself, but in his opponents, and in the rest of the world who was watching to see what he would do with this tribulation.
Henry says, “Nothing confounds more than disappointment.” Yet, Xiang did not allow himself to be confounded. He persevered. He never gave up.
Why? I don’t have the answer for that. But, I know that in my own life, I am propelled forward by the trials in my life because, as Henry says, “[I] am not ashamed of [my] sufferings. It is in a good cause, for a good Master, and in good hope; and therefore [I] am not ashamed.” Whether I win, or lose, whether my kitchen stays clean for five minutes, or five days after I’ve washed another pile of dishes, and whether I manage to get all of the trenches dug on my property before the end of the planting season comes, I never give up. The reason for my perseverance lies not in whether I achieve the end goal, but, as Henry puts it, ” it is laid in the shedding abroad of the love of God in [my] heart.” For as 2 Corinthians 5:14 says, it is “Christ’s love [that] compels us”. As Mr. Henry says, “What should such do, for whom Christ died? Namely, they should live to him.” In other words, because Jesus persevered and never gave up, but marched straight to the cross, where He was crucified for you and me – when I realize the incredible amount of love that He poured out for me when He did it, I am compelled to persevere in my own life, I am propelled by an unspeakable love that, regardless of the outcome, compels me to never give up!
So, to sum it up, my compulsion to never give up started in the world of sports, where I learned that invaluable lesson that Liu Xiang, and all of the other Olympic athletes that competed this year, demonstrated so well. Keep on going. Finish. Never give up. The lessons in perseverance that I learned, as an athlete, will stick with me for the rest of my life. But, the thing that has cemented that “never give up” spirit that lies within me, and is the source of my perseverance, now, is the love of Christ, which enables me to meet any challenge or obstacle I am facing with a fierce determination that I have never known before. It is why I clean, yet, another stack of dirty dishes, correct every piece of schoolwork that my kids put into my inbox, and dig, yet, another trench out in the garden. If Christ died for me, how can I do any less than persevere for Him?
~ So, is there something that you need to persevere in, or a difficult task that lies before you today? What will you do to nurture that spirit of never giving up? How will you use that accomplishment to propel forward to finish the next great task that lies before you? Do you know the love of Christ, in a real way, in your life such that it will, ultimately, compel you to never give up? Do you need and want to know what it’s all about? If so, I’d love to share all I know about it with you. 🙂