It is late as I sit in the leather recliner, curled up in a blanket, watching the qualification round of women’s gymnastics. The USA looks dominant on vault, steady on bars and beam. The commentators talk about how this is no surprise. They call these five gymnasts the Fab Five—likening them unto the Maginifcent Seven—contenders for a gold medal.
As these young ladies begin their final rotation—floor— the talk is all about the three that have competed on all the events. Gaby, Ali, and Jordyn—are the ones competing for spots in the all around final. The difference between their All-Around scores is so close that any of them could make the Olympic All-Around finals, which is the dream of every gymnast. As I watch, I’m not sure who to cheer for, because I know only two of them are able to do this. Do I cheer for the underdog? Or do I cheer for the one who has been on top of the world? Going into the rotation it looks like Gaby is the only one who will be in for sure.
As I watch, I can’t help but reflect on my own experience. I know a tiny bit of what they have gone through to get there. I competed in gymnastics until I was 13 at the gym of two former Olympians who know what gold is like. I don't know what Olympic gold is like, but I do know what it is like to spend hours in the gym each week. I trained 15½ hours weekly. These ladies double that amount, at least. They train for hours on the events and nearly as many on conditioning their bodies. They wake up early in the morning to practice. They go to school. Then they come back later and practice some more. They do it because they love it. They do it because they dream of this moment.
It takes tremendous discipline to do what they do.
As I think about this, I reflect on the similarities between these athletes and the discipline of discipleship.
Paul writes to Timothy to coach him, “Train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come […] Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress”
1 Timothy 4:7-8,15 NIV.
Gymnasts train their bodies physically to do routines perfectly; I train my heart, so that it might be godly.
Gymnasts do many push-ups, sit-ups, lunges and all sorts of muscle building exercises. They do repetition after repetition of a turn, a tumbling pass, a move on each event. They build strength. They build muscle memory by doing it over and over again. They learn to focus well in each moment of each routine, so that on the day of competition their bodies do what they have been trained to do.
I want to seek God like this. I want to allow Scripture to sink deep into my heart, so I don’t just read it and forget it. I want to read it and live it. So I train.
I train to listen for God’s voice as I pray, so that I might learn to hear it and respond in the midst of my day. There are days where I do well. There are also days when I get distracted from what is important. I try to learn how to stay focused. I make mistakes. I come back and start over and try to do it differently next time. I balk afraid. Then, I begin to learn how to surrender and respond, trusting I can do what my coach, the Spirit, tells me I can do.
This is part of training--learning to make adjustments when I don't get it right, learning to try again. It is only in working through the problems that I can begin to get it right.
They’re training to become Olympic champions. The next few days will show whether they will be or not.
Me, I’m training to become like Christ. It happens one day at a time, one moment at a time. And by God’s grace, in the someday, I will be.
In the meantime, I’ll be enjoying as I watch the fruit of discipline in the lives of these amazing athletes.
“Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” 1 Corinthians 9:25 NIV
Grace and peace be ours in abundance as we train in godliness. As we seek Him may we find that we become more like our teacher, our rabbi, Jesus. May we rejoice in the transformation that He works in us—as we learn from mistakes and build on the fruitful places.