A Platform Worth Standing On
If you have spent any time watching NBC’s Olympic Coverage you have undoubtedly seen some post-contest interviews. They tend to be pretty standard: Beaming athletes still trying to catch their breath are given a moment to answer a few predictable questions. “How did you manage to pull off the victory?” “How did you handle the pressure?” “How do you feel now?”
Most of the responses are predictable as well. “I really trained hard to get ready for these games.” “I just focused on swimming my own race.” “I’m so happy all the hard work has paid off.”
Then come the religious athletes. More than a few credit God with their success and occasionally one will specifically thank “my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” I always feel some tension when I hear such answers because I know that such words provoke a variety of negative reactions.
Some mock the notion of divine involvement in sports. The hosts of the local sports radio show I tune into enjoy mocking ‘Team Jesus’ athletes from any sport, thinking it both arrogant and absurd that God enabled them to win while ignoring the other contestants. Others doubt the sincerity of the athlete, suspecting such spirituality is only present in victory and not defeat.
But after David Boudia and Steele Johnson took silver in synchronized diving they offered spiritual thoughts in their interview that were different and went deeper than the norm. Both testified of the intense battle with anxiety in competing. Boudia, a gold medal winner at the 2012 Olympics in London, faced the expectations to repeat. Johnson, an Olympic rookie faced the pressure to not blow it for his teammate.
The pressure to meet the high expectations of those looking to them; the pressure to not blow it and let everyone down. This resonated with me. But their response to how they handled it did so even more. They said that what made it possible to have peace in the midst of intense pressure was the fact that their identity was not ultimately determined by diving, but that it was found in Christ.
I’m sure many still rolled their eyes in disgust. But it was clear, winsome and most importantly, it seemed to be true.