The following guest post is by Kim Shippey, who as a Radio and TV broadcaster covered the summer Olympics in Montreal, Los Angeles, Seoul, and Barcelona.
It was gratifying to me that wherever the Olympics took me, there were always people who on hearing of my connection with The Christian Science Monitor would ask, “How should we be praying for the Games?”
They included a young South Korean national serviceman named Yunoh, who was one of the guards at the entrance to the Press Village in Seoul. He wore a red badge announcing proudly, “I speak English.”
He also had the less usual distinction of being a committed Christian, and we spent many a late night over tea in my room discussing how we could best pray for the Games. What we worked out together not surprisingly still applies as we settle in to enjoy the Games in Rio Janeiro.
This year’s gathering provides another golden opportunity to bring spiritual depth to our thinking whatever our role may be—competing athlete, organizing official, security guard, or spectator (in the stands in Rio, or as part of an all-embracing worldwide media event).
Whatever our faith persuasion, we can pray to open windows into divine Truth. This includes a greater awareness of the true nature of God—of His unceasing, all-encompassing care of the health and well-being of all of us at all times.
Supported by prayer of this kind, the Olympians can expect to be safe at every venue. They can confidently anticipate a spirit of fairness and honesty during competition, and happy camaraderie among themselves and among those watching them.
Such prayer helps set aside discomforting evidence of anything un-Godlike—financial greed, political power struggles, performance-enhancing drugs, and fears of disease and terrorism—and focus on the Games as a celebration of God’s goodness and power.
And as so much emphasis falls upon the athletes and their individual performances, I love to think of them soaring on eagle’s wings, and running, throwing, and leaping unwearily through every challenge (see Isaiah 40:31)—especially, perhaps, members of the recently formed Team Refugee Olympic Athletes selected by the board of the International Olympic Committee.
I pray that they will recognize the unfailing support God provides for their efforts, with no slipping (see 2 Samuel 22:37); and will join the prophet Habakkuk in declaring that God is the source of their strength and provides footing as secure as the deer’s, even in the highest places (chapter 3, verse 19).
Spiritual pioneer, Mary Baker Eddy, viewed such challenges through the lens of what she revealed as the Science of Christianity, which, when fully understood, she said, gives students “acuteness and comprehensiveness and an ability to exceed their ordinary capacity.”
Eddy went further: “The human mind, imbued with this spiritual understanding, becomes more elastic, is capable of greater endurance, escapes somewhat from itself, and requires less repose” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 128).
What Olympian wouldn’t exchange four years of training for a bonus like that!
I’ve found it encouraging that these days many coaches don’t hesitate to ask: Where are your thoughts anchored? Are you at peak mental fitness? Has your spiritual training kept pace with your physical conditioning?
I’ve heard many Olympians welcome such questions and toss back heartfelt answers. I’ve heard them confirm their faith in God’s power and unconditional love for everyone, without regard for race, nationality, or Olympic classification. And I’ve seen their experience as competitors become balanced and enriched.
I’m convinced that cultivating an understanding of everyone’s relation to God plays a key role in dissolving divisiveness, personality conflicts, win-at-all-costs attitudes, and enmity between rival teams and nations.
And I know my friend Yunoh would agree.
At the close of the Seoul Olympics Yunoh almost missed saying goodbye. But he ran after the Press bus and clambered aboard to offer me a small package.
Paper flew in all directions as it came apart to reveal a small white porcelain bell bearing the Olympic insignia. It tinkled delicately in the autumn air.
“Just something to remind you of me … er … I mean, Korea,” he said with gentle embarrassment.
He didn’t know which way to look. Nor did I.
I have cherished that bell for almost thirty years. I think Yunoh would be pleased.