Michael Phelps’ trainer revealed a few of his unorthodox methods at Michael’s last Olympics. He told an interviewer that, among other things, he would sometimes step on Michael’s goggles so they would fill up with water in the pool. He wanted to be sure that no unforeseen difficulties would keep Michael from his triumph. There wasn’t much that did stop Michael Phelps on his way to 22 victories, 18 of them stamped in gold, more than twice as many first place medals than any other Olympian.
That thing that does stir our hearts when we see diligence and dedication rewarded can move us to action, if only we would believe that the reward is worth the training.
For us the prize is Jesus’ likeness and the Nearness of God. In this “event,” the distance between the spectators and the medalists is the assessment of what it means to us to wear the crown. Michael has an 80” span between the fingertips of both arms, four inches greater than his height, something a bit unusual. His size-fourteen feet bend about 15 degrees more than others at the ankle. These measurements likely make a measurable difference when centimeters are at stake, but for us, it is our desire for God that takes us into the victory lap, and unlike Michael, we get to live there!
Monastic men and women are just like us, except . . . they have decided on the prize, and there is nothing that can keep us from doing the same. Marketplace monastics, you and I, cannot keep distractions out, but we can keep ourselves in, in Christ. We can see God in the interruptions that come, and we can make progress because of our marriages and our jobs, or our loneliness or our temptations. We can train our souls in conflict and disappointment and loss and trepidation; sometimes our goggles fill up with water in the pool! We learn not to run after the things that rob our joy and the honor of our destiny. We can love all we want, and we can have all of God that want, even to the overflowing of His life through us (John 7:38,) but Living Water only flows out of those who believe!
That is what Cor Unum is all about . . . together we are going to show up, poolside, every day, and trust the greatest Coach, ever! Be prepared! It isn't His job to take it easy on us; His responsibility is to get us to the finish line, victorious, and He is fully able to do it! He is faithful Who promised! (Hebrews 10:23) This “trainer” will allow tribulation, because He doesn’t annihilate those who might drift over into our lane; sometimes He even steps on our goggles, for our sake, but if any earthly coach could deliver what ours can, his would be a crowded gym!
Much as the Lord does promise that we will face some difficulties along the way, He has promised never to leave us or forsake. He has guaranteed our success with His own life. He has given us everything we need that we may claim the prize (2 Peter 1.) Bob Bowman was the right coach for Michael Phelps, and Michael always said he would swim for no other. He never did. If Michael ever grew slack in his training or discipline, the whole world knew about it . . . rather a difficult life for a young man . . . but at the end of his Olympic career, it proved to have been singularly successful.
Let us encourage one another today and every day, if we show up and train in Christlikeness (2 Timothy 3:16,) we will win the prize. Let's remind one another, the prize is CHRIST and His likeness, and it is worth every lap we swim!
Arvid Spanberg, 1908 Olympic, Swedish diver
Image in the public domain
published before Jan. 1, 1923