I am still working through all the lessons I learned from the Olympics. I hope you can bear with me for just a few more! The Olympics wasn’t all about winning, it was also about facing failure. We all must face failure at one time or another. Some of us face it more often than others!
The Summer Olympics London 2012 wrapped up last night. The commentators have told story after story about triumph over adversity leading up to the Games. The background stories are inspiring examples of courage and perseverance. (I’ve shared with you such a story from our own family.) The Olympic athletes demonstrate amazing ability in their respective sports. World records, Olympic records, and National records were broken every day of the competition. Some of those records stood for over 20 years before being broken, and some records even longer.
But this year particularly I was struck by the failures as much as the victories. A man labeled the greatest swimmer of all time, did not even medal in one race. Was he any less great because of this failure? Another man is now labeled the fastest sprinter of all time, yet he came in second at the trials. Is he any less great because of this failure?
Perhaps the most meaningful statement was made by a commentator during the women’s vaulting final event. As all the other vaulters performed, the commentator kept mentioning that it was a given who would get the gold. His comments were based on her previous performance. Over and over, during the last few years, she had proved herself to be the best women’s vaulter in the world. Yet, here at the Olympics, she faltered on one of her vaults costing her the gold medal. Stunned, the commentator made this statement “She is a World Champion gymnast. Just not today.” He extended grace to her and his words bring clarity to understanding failures.
A single failure does not redefine who we are. She still is a World Champion gymnast despite the failure. I realize the greatness of these athletes is in their achievements not their character. Though some have succeeded in both. But the lesson on understanding failure is as true for great character and walking in faith.
So let me say again – A single failure does not redefine who we are. As Christ followers we are going to stumble. But this simply means we failed today. It does not redefine us as failures nor does it redefine the name ‘Christian’. The fact that we fail sometimes even in the things we try our hardest in – simply means we are human and imperfect. It is our very lack of perfection that cries out for the need of a Savior. If you run the race for the Lord, demonstrating His love, sharing His message, living each moment for Him, you will be known as one of His. Like the Olympians, there are days your weaknesses will be more public and more costly than others. But we must understand them in the context of a lifetime, and to extend grace to ourselves and to one another.