Watching the Olympics is such a passionate experience – the emotions I feel sitting in front of a TV are intense as I witness the world’s most excellent athletes drive themselves to mind-blowing achievements. Last night I saw Oscar Pistorius rise to greatness racing without lower legs and McKayla Maroney fly off the vault reaching unimaginable heights. There was Sanya Richards Ross owning her finish line while her parents were joyfully shouting in the stands because she won a gold medal. The talent these people have is incredible and I’ll never understand the physical exertion spent throughout one’s life in order to win the crown, so to speak, mostly because I’ve maintained a pretty jack-of-all-trades approach to the activities in mine. (Ball player, dancer, pianist, volleyball player, equestrian, actress, vocalist, photographer – all things that could be added to my résumé.) And in a sense, because I had such a short attention span for many of my hobbies, tonight I watched the Olympics with a twinge of regret. I saw athletes my age and younger in possession of hardcore, natural skill, chiseled and developed over excruciating hours of hard work and dedication – I sat in my averageness wishing I that had found something in my life that had captured my passion; something calling me to push myself to the limit in order to achieve a greatness beyond measure.
Then I remembered my baptism, and one particular Scripture passage so dear to my soul:
24 Do you not know that in a stadium all the runners run the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. 25 Every athlete exercises discipline in all things. They do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. 26 Thus I do not run aimlessly, I do not fight as though I were shadowboxing; 27 No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after preaching to others, I myself should be disqualified. (1 Cor. 9:24-27)
One thing I can attest to loving all my life is Catholicism and though the only medal I’ll wear around my neck is the Miraculous Medal, all of my life’s work is in pursuit of the imperishable crown. So often in my spiritual life, I feel like I’m running aimlessly and shadowboxing. There are a million devotions I want to practice and virtues I want to develop – daily Rosary, faithful recitation of the Angelus, daily Mass, lectio divina, Liturgy of the Hours, frequent adoration, etc. But where do I start? I love spiritual reading, but should I read the Bible, The Story of a Soul, or The Dialogues first? Or maybe I’ll look over my notes from my [rusty] theology degree from college. I’ll start one thing, and choose another all the while my soul is distracted and I feel little change within myself. It’s in these instances that I feel weak boxing at nothing, a far cry from focused and excellent as a Catholic. It’s easy to feel this way in wife-and-motherhood, too, with occasionally scattered, patched up efforts and little to show for them.
There is always hope in Christ, however, and so again I’m able to boast in him. Offering the Lord all that I have, he will take it, bless it, and use it to fulfill his will; and with him, I’ll no longer be boxing at nothing, but driving my soul to a purpose and eternal reward. To regard my soul as an athlete does his body is a challenging approach. Athletes abstain from junk food and choose healthier options, they spend their entire days refining their craft and striving for perfection; so must I do with my soul. I have to abstain from sin and choose always God’s will over mine. The best way for me to run so as to win is frequenting the Sacraments of Confession and Holy Eucharist and to maintain constant contact with God, breathing prayer as a runner would rhythmically inhale and exhale. Though my home doesn’t even begin to resemble an Olympic training center and my days don’t consist of rigorous physical exertion, I can spend my entire day wrapped in prayer refining my habits into virtues and striving to please God alone. Failure and injury will certainly happen (especially stepping on Legos), but what separates the Olympians from the spectators is that they never ceased training and never lost sight of their purposes and goals. It’s too easy to become distracted in this world, but with my eyes and soul fixed on the Crucifix, I hope to receive a heavenly crown for the glory of God.