Elmbrook Stories

Going the Distance

Going the Distance

In just a few short weeks, NBC Sports will begin to broadcast the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. Long-time commentators like Bob Costas will introduce the world to its champion athletes, using phrases like "the Road to Rio" to frame each individual's story. I find it all inspiring. An Olympic journey illustrates true perseverance in the face of extreme challenges and hardship. 

As a winter sport athlete with similar hopes to those competing in the Summer Games, I find myself comparing the physical preparation I undergo to the disciplines I practice in my spiritual life. Each serves as a great metaphor for the other. Hebrews 12:1 says, "...and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith."

One of the biggest factors that affects both my athletic and spiritual development is my ability to endure. Strict training in any sense comes with pain and suffering, but in the end it produces perseverance.

When I first started speed skating, I needed to do some serious work to build up my aerobic base, and I still do. Without it, I cannot expect to last in a longer distance event. Therefore, I am intentional about conditioning my body to perform at a certain standard.

When I first started speed skating, I needed to do some serious work to build up my aerobic base, and I still do. Without it, I cannot expect to last in a longer distance event. Therefore, I am intentional about conditioning my body to perform at a certain standard.

As a comparison to faith, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 9:25-26, "I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave, so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." I can relate to a certain degree. The most grueling physical workout I do involves leaping up a hill multiple times, while in a crouched, bent over position. I hate it because it hurts so much, and yet I love it because it produces the exact end results I want to see.

In the spiritual arena of life, hardship or trials yield a similar outcome. That is where dependence on Jesus becomes absolutely necessary. For example, it took me a long time to let go of the feelings of discouragement and disappointment I felt after failing to qualify for the 2014 US Olympic trials. I wanted to give up 90% of the time over the past year-and-a-half, especially since it felt like my performance was declining, but I'm so glad that I toughed it out. Christ made me more resilient through it, and now I am stronger.

Finally, at the very end of my competition season last spring, I experienced the rewards of persevering. As soon as I crossed the finish line, I knew that I had skated my very best, and all of the time spent training at the Pettit National Ice Center paid off. I can only expect that the finish line for our spiritual race will be even that much more gratifying.

This August, the Champions at the Summer Olympics in Rio will serve as both a literal and metaphorical reminder for me "to let perseverance finish its work so that I am mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1:4)