As an athlete, I’ve come to find that working out and playing the sport I love can be a spiritual experience. This may sound strange, but during what other activity are you completely in tune with your body, using it completely for the purpose for which it was made? When I work out I am constantly aware of the intricate internal workings of my body. I can feel every contraction of muscle, every burst of energy released, every beat of my pounding heart, every spike of adrenaline coursing through my veins, every intake of breath… And when I feel as though my body is about to give out, it is then that I feel most alive.
Personally, I believe that my athletic abilities, and those of all athletes, are gifts from God through which we are able to fully appreciate the life He has given us. However, (and I include myself in this) all too often athletes get so wrapped up in the game or the competition that they lose sight of this blessing.
More often than not, when you hear athletes reference their faith in relation to their sport, you hear them talking about how God helped their team win the game or helped them personally out race the competition–as if God had some stake in which team or individual came out on top! (Perhaps He makes bets with the Devil on who will win the Superbowl every year, I wouldn’t know, but I’d say that this is a bit of a long shot.)
We become so focused on the prize–the trophy, the medal, the fame–that we lose sight of what’s important. We take for granted the strength of our bodies when so many others out there have lost or never had the ability to do a fraction of what we can.
As 16 year-old Olympic gymnast, Gabby Douglas, said after winning gold in the 2012 London Games, “God has given me this awesome talent to represent Him. Glory goes up to Him, and the blessings fall down on us.” Although the vast majority of us may never see success even remotely close to hers, I believe that it is important that we glorify God for the talents He bestowed upon us during every practice and every competition. Only then do I think that we can fully appreciate our sports and the life flowing within us.
I can do all things through Him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13