I, like many in America, have been glued to the television this week and avidly watching the Olympics. So many stories are told; of joy, of heartbreak, of dreams fulfilled or of dreams dashed, of defeat and of redemption. All of the athletes had one thing in common: they dreamt of Olympic gold.
One story epitomized them all; Jordyn Wieber.
As a gymnast, Jordyn had spent thousands of hours, countless days, and many years of training in preparation to be in the Olympics. Complete focus and dedication to the sport ruled her life, and it was perhaps her life’s greatest passion. She had given up a lot in order to attain her goal. To date it had paid off; she was the reigning world all-around champion, making her the favorite to win here in London.
She failed. Nothing catastrophic happened, she was very good. But there were small errors that added up, and two of her teammates edged her out. Failing to qualify for the individual all-around competition had not been a serious consideration, and the devastation on her face told the story.
But it wasn’t the end of the story.
Jordyn went on to participate for the USA in the team all-around competition. Tension was thick as everyone wondered if she could overcome her disappointment, and go on to excel. She who had been the team cheerleader was now encouraged by her teammates.
When she beautifully executed each of her events, her coach greeted her with hugs and encouraging words of affirmation. Her teammates rejoiced with her. At the end of the competition, her face communicated a different story; one of elation, victory, and redemption. Together, they had won the gold medal! Perhaps that success was all the sweeter for the earlier defeat.
She could not have done it without training and discipline, without the support of her family and her teammates, or without her coach.
What is true in gymnastics is true in life, especially in the life of one who follows Jesus.
No matter how much we discipline ourselves to follow Jesus, we will fail. No matter how hard we try, we are imperfect, sinful creatures who will fall short . Sometimes miserably. Sometimes very publicly. And we grieve, because we do love Jesus. We have trained ourselves to do right, and never wanted to disappoint Him.
But, like Jordyn, that is not the end of the story. We have a God of second chances. And third. And fourth. He not only forgives us our failures, but gives us other opportunities to get it right.
We have teammates—others who love Jesus—who encourage us. They remind us that failure is not final, and cheer us on to keep on eyes on the goal; to honor Jesus by giving Him our best. Because no matter the failure, with Jesus there can be redemption. He is the coach who roots us on. As we follow Him, He can bring good out of the worst failure. His grace. Our weakness. That’s how it works.
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13
- Have you ever, in spite of your best efforts, failed when you did not expect to?
- If so, what was your predominant emotion?
- Were you given the chance to redeem that failure, and succeed?
- What can you, as a follower of Jesus, do to move past failure towards a new victory?
Father, I am beyond grateful that because I belong to You, my inevitable failures do not define me. Nor do they limit what You can do in my life in the future. Thank You that my weakness is not greater than Your strength, and You only ask that I press on. Help me to do so with all that is in me, so that when I see You face-to-face, I might hear those words that I long to hear: “Well done.”