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Now that the Olympic Games are over, we are left trying to figure out what we did with our days (or evenings) before they started.  Life has returned to normal, and that has left me wondering, what, if anything, can we learn from the experience.  It seems to me that I have learned a few things about myself as I have watched these games.

I still don’t like team sports.  Honestly, I tried to watch when my country’s teams were playing, but all I could  think of was an aunt of mine who always used to say, “Why not give them all their own ball and send them home.”  I’m okay with not having learned to like teams sports, but I have grown in admiration for those who played, which makes me realize that there are a lot of other things that I don’t like, but other people do and maybe its time for me to express to those people just how much I appreciate them doing those tasks I’d rather avoid.  Like the clerks who take minutes and the church secretaries who fight with the photocopier. 

I am most likely going to support the underdog.  If I came upon a sport in which I didn’t support any of the athletes, I would always root for the one that the sportscaster said didn’t have a chance.  They gave their all, and sometimes they actually pulled off an upset, but they never gave up.  From them I need to learn that no matter how difficult the task, I need to keep plugging at it and remember always that God supports me and strengthens me.

I like people with spunk and determination.  Like the mountain biker, who raced and gave it her all even though she had cracked her collar bone and a rib in training the day before.  They make me realize that it is possible to face any task with positive energy and a good attitude.  It’s a good life lesson for when the days are long and I am weary.

I don’t like people who are arrogant about their gifts and skills.  Self confidence is good, arrogance is not.  But I also learned that I sometimes can’t tell the difference.  During the Bejing Games I disliked Michael Phelps, I thought him arrogant and prideful.  This year I saw a side of him that was vulnerable and open.  I saw his gratitude for what he has accomplished.  Either he changed or I did, or we both grew in the last four years.  But I am glad to know that I have learned that I not only need to revisit my first impressions of people, but also that I can.  I thank God for the grace to do that.

I like people who are trailblazers.  Every one raves about the South African runner and he indeed put everything on the line and did well, but I am thinking primarily of those women from Muslim countries who came and competed, even while having to find a way to honor their religious dress code.  I like how every one supported them even as they waited for those women to finish the race.  I hope it is just the beginning of more women from every part of the world standing up for their rights and taking on the battle even if they have to stand alone.  I hope that if the opportunity arises I will enter the fray and support and encourage those brave women that I encounter.

I like people who are humble and honest.  Especially in team events when one contestant caused a DQ, and then they came and publically apologized for letting down their team and country I was impressed.  Yet I have to wonder, do I admit responsibility for my own mistakes as readily and honestly? 

I like people who are gracious, and filled with grace, and who extend that grace and mercy even in the face of defeat.  I have to say that I really admire the Costa Rican tri-athlete who got knocked down when the Canadian rider had a bike accident.  He wrote a letter to the Canadian rider and spoke of his admiration for him and extended an invitation to come and visit in Costa Rica.  This man came dead last in a race in which he could have done much better without falling off his bike …. that was grace.  It was like the command of Christ to go the extra mile.  I pray that I will have that same kind of grace when people inadvertantly hurt me or harm my chances at something.

From the Olympic Games I have learned that there are many qualities that make an athlete, but those same qualities should be apparent in Christians.  May I be strengthened in my walk with God so that I display those qualities that I admire and lose those that I don’t.