When the Olympics started, I was on a youth mission trip. I missed the opening ceremonies and most of the first weekend of competition as we were traveling home. I thought I would not be as engaged in the Olympics as others, but I find that I am. Gymnastics, swimming, track & field. I’ve even watched some archery, water polo, soccer, and read about the badminton controversy.
I find the dedication of Olympic athletes inspiring. Then the recognition comes of just how young they are. Gabby Douglas, a 16-year-old American gymnast, won the women’s all-around gold medal. Colorado high school senior, Missy Franklin has won 4 medals – 3 of them gold – and set a new world record in swimming.
While I am a sports fan, I also enjoy the Olympics because the television coverage often shares a glimpse into the lives of the athletes and the people surrounding them. Michael Phelps’ mom is almost as recognizable to me as he is. I like learning how they started in their sport, what else they do, and how much time and effort they put in to becoming Olympic medalists.
During one of those “this is why their great” pieces, I began to reflect on those who haven’t won medals, the also-rans, the ones who don’t do well enough in qualifying rounds to make it to the finals. It occurred to me there is no direct correlation between “gym time” and success in the sport. Other gymnasts practice as much as Gabby Douglas. Other swimmers are also in the pool at 5:00 a.m. like Missy Franklin. Their efforts didn’t result in gold medals or world records though.
You and I as associates and other church staff members put in a lot of “gym time” – the behind-the-scenes hours needed to be good at what we do. We rise early to read and study, we sit in coffee shops with those who are struggling, we work over meals, we put hours in behind our desks, and we stay up late to catch up on email or write a curriculum. We put forth gold medal efforts but aren’t always the one on the podium singing along to the national anthem.
So why do we keep doing it? I imagine for the same reasons the athletes do – for the love of the game, because we know this is what we were made to do, or in the words of Eric Liddell in the movie Chariots of Fire, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.” We do it because we too feel God’s pleasure.
I have met several in ministry who have decided because they will never be the next Billy Graham, Rick Warren, Rob Bell, Max Lucado, Doug Fields, or whatever other celebrity pastor they have aspired to be, they will no longer put forth the effort. They are going through the motions, accepting good enough, phoning it in, content with the status quo. May you and I continue to put in the gym time because though we never matter to millions, our ministry matters to those whom we serve.