August 5, 2012 by Jay Helms
How do you feel when you see or hear of Michael Phelps, the man who has inspired an entire generation, and his record 22 olympic medals?
How about when you hear of 17 year olds like Missy Franklin and 15 year olds like Katie Ledecky defeating all challengers in the world currently and for all of history to earn Gold medals and shatter world records set by icons? What about when you see a 4’11” 16 year old do things you couldn’t dream of doing on your best day?
I always feel a strange combination of emotions while watching the Olympics. It’s some awkward hybrid of healthy pride for the accomplishments of others, and being fired up to do something great myself joined up with a sense of humiliating unimportance.
When I feel this way, I am glad I got up early on the morning of April 26, 2011. It was then that I had the opportunity to sit at the feet of Rick Warren. Though he had a great reputation, I really did not know that he was genuinely wise. It was when he spoke about what happens when we compare ourselves to others that I realized he is actually a wise man. Being a wise man is miles away from being smart or brilliant. It is much more rare. So much so that I find I am taken aback when I encounter a wise person directly.
That morning, Rick shared that only one of two things can happen when we compare ourselves (our lives, accomplishments, assets, families, jobs, talents…) with others. We will either 1) Be filled with a pride that is inherently unsatisfying and bent. or 2) We will feel discouraged about our own lives. That insight into comparison is something I will remember and will teach my children.
Underneath all of this lies the question: Do I really have an opportunity to live a life that is worth living? An influential Middle Eastern man once responded to this internal question with a resounding YES!, saying, “Whatever accomplishments and status were gains to me earlier in my life I now consider loss for the sake of Christ Jesus. Let me put it this way: I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them trash, that I may gain Jesus instead.”
World records and gold medals would not do it for him and they will not do it for me (like I’d ever get within a thousand miles of one…). And since comparing myself won’t do, like the short balding man who penned those words, I think I’ll be taking another road. One that takes aim at a crown that will last for a really long time…and I have a hunch Olympic Marathoner Ryan Hall would say the same thing.
“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)”