Lessons from the Olympics
August 13, 2021
The Tokyo Olympic Games have been a great tonic for us in lockdown. At a time when we were all feeling the weight of containment, the world’s greatest athletes inspired us with their amazing achievements. The Australian team has especially made us proud; there were so many exceptional performances.
A standout for me was Nicola McDermott who came second in the women’s high jump. Nicola jumped an Australian record and personal best of 2.02 metres to secure the silver medal, second only to the reigning world champion.
Nicola has an inspiring story. She grew up an outsider. She was significantly taller than her peers; this made her feel awkward and self-conscious. As a teenager she was welcomed into a faith community where she was loved and experienced firsthand the love of God. This taught her how to think differently about herself. She started to appreciate that God made her tall for a reason. She embraced this truth about herself and started to pursue excellence as a high jumper. Nicola began worshipping God by jumping over a stick!
I love this view of worship. It accords with what we teach at TIGS. Worship is not just what we do at Church; we can worship God anywhere by doing anything that aligns with his intentions for us. We especially worship God when we pursue our passions as an expression of who he has made us. For Nicola, this was high jumping.
If you have ever seen Nicola’s unique leadup to jumping, you will appreciate how high jump for her is worship. Before setting off to jump, Nicola looks to the heavens as if to seek God out, refusing to go to the bar without him. She enters a deep communion with God which radiates her whole being. Then follows a loud “come-on” and off she goes. It is a sight to behold.
Most importantly, Nicola’s relationship with God has helped her put her sport in its rightful place. It is the second great love of her life after God. This makes a huge difference for her. Nicola has learnt that success in sport cannot make her complete. It doesn’t need to. She is already complete in Christ. Anything else is just a bonus. This is so freeing. It means that Nicola is not jumping to define herself; she is jumping to delight herself, and her creator.
Again, this accords with what we teach at TIGS. We are not defined by our achievements; our value and worth are not the result of what we do. Our significance is founded on the steadfast love of God for us in Christ. Because of this, we don’t live to pursue worth; we live as an expression of our worth. It is a crucial distinction. I thank Nicola for reminding me of these great biblical truths.