I’ve Given Up Everything For This

Published on February 18, 2010 by CT in Blog, Kindling

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When others’ words kindle my own flame:  Reflections on words by Lindsey Vonn, 2010 Olympic Champion.

“I’ve given up everything for this.  It means everything to me. It’s why I work hard.  I got what I came here to do.  I got a gold medal; I have what I want.”

Tears have a funny way of releasing things.  Lindsey Vonn’s tears were no different.  As she stood at the bottom of the mountain at Whistler, Olympic Gold as her prize, the Women’s Downhill Champion’s tears shone brightly in the sun.

She must have been thinking of all the years she spent training for this moment.  She must have been thinking of all the expectations that were placed on her shoulders as the favorite for these Games.  She must have been thinking of the pressure that mounted as she sustained a shin injury just two weeks before the Games began.

She had been single-minded in her goal of becoming the world’s best women’s downhill skier.  She had disciplined her body and her emotions for years as she trained for these Games.  And she had persevered through intense suffering and setback.  And now she stood as Olympic Champion.

Simply put, Lindsey’s tears were tears of joy, and release, and satisfaction.  She had every right to shed them, for this was her moment, one to be applauded and admired.  Her tears were the sweet, crowning jewels of her Olympic glory.

Here’s a truth we all know, and one Lindsey either knows already or will soon discover:  Olympic glory fades.  So does the glory from being a successful preacher, or pastor, or writer, or musician, or businessman, or businesswoman, or student.  We all strive for perishable wreaths at different times in our lives.  And we strive for them in vain.

You know well the passage where Paul compares himself to an athlete.  He writes:

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize?  So run that you may obtain it.  Every athlete exercises self-control in all things.  They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable” (1 Cor 9:24-25).

This echoes another passage, perhaps penned by Paul as well:

“Let us lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross” (Heb 12:1-2).

So we gain an imperishable wreath when we are single-minded in our pursuit:  to obtain the prize promised by the gospel.  We gain an imperishable wreath when we lay aside the sin that clings to us, exercising self-control in all things.  And we gain an imperishable crown when we persevere in our race, enduring suffering as it comes, following Jesus every step of the way.

We may imagine that the bottom of our mountains will bring tears as joy and relief as well.  But the tears we shed are simply an expression of a deeper longing within us, a longing that will one day be satisfied.  Our tears today are just like anything in this world:  shadows of a brighter reality, or echoes of a sweeter song.

Our prize is a place with a Person, and this Person will “wipe away every tear from their eyes…neither shall there be crying…for the former things have passed away” (Rev 21:4).  It is in that day that we will wear our imperishable crowns of righteousness, because of Him and for His sake.  And in that day we will be satisfied by our greatest joy:  Jesus.

Congratulations to you, Lindsey. Your achievement is inspiring and well-deserved.  And as the glory of your triumph begins to fade, may you find (or continue to find) Jesus as your imperishable wreath.  And may we all see your inspiring example as a reflection of the higher call we have on our lives.  May we run the race with single-mindedness, exercising self-control, disciplining our bodies for the sake of the gospel, and persevering through suffering, all so that we might obtain the prize we seek:  eternity in the presence of the One whose glory never fades.

*This post includes updated language to make clear that I don’t know Vonn personally and do not mean to presume whether or not she is a follower of Christ.  I hope that she is!

  • Ed Cyzewski

    Solid post. It's very helpful to use Lindsey as an illustration for the ways we can do the same thing. Conviction accomplished. I'm reminded of Jesus saying to Martha, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed."

  • Amy

    Lindsay Vonn is a native of the Twin Cities, where I live. A few years ago, my pastor interviewed her live as part of his weekend sermon on living up to your God-given potential. She testified to her genuine faith and her belief that God's hand was guiding her in her career. I cannot attest to her faith today in light of her worldly fame, however, I do believe it was sincere a few years ago and that she knew Jesus as the imperishable wreath. Jesus and life in eternity with him is our ultimate prize, however, I don't believe that precludes us from success today, particularly when we give God the glory. I hope that Lindsay will do just that.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Chris_Tomlinson Chris_Tomlinson

      Amy, well said. I don't know Lindsey at all, and I didn't mean to presume she doesn't know Jesus as her own imperishable wreath. I may in fact update the language of this post to that end to make it more clear, so thanks for mentioning the back story.

      As you said, knowing Jesus as our ultimate prize does not preclude us from the success, particularly when we give God the glory. I'd even say our success has more meaning in a sense when we do it for His glory.

      Thank you for sharing…

  • Andy Parker

    I was disappointed by the post. I see the argument, yes. But what Lindsey said after winning the race does not preclude her being a faithful Christian. To suggest it does reflects the bias of your tradition, not a lack of faith on her part.

    I like Ed's comment. I will turn it around here. In concerning yourself in what Lindsey didn't do and not what she did, you are like Martha.

    I think it would have been better to give thanks to the way God blesses us with talents, gifts and the fortitude to persevere and build skills to the degree of excellence that Lindsey possesses. I would give thanks that we can share in it via events like the Olympics and praise the magnificence of God's creation.

    One of the wonders of the Olympics, is that while we give some fealty to the athletes from our homeland, most of us watch the games in simple awe. That's part of why the Tonya Harding's are reviled, as is cheating by any athlete.

    My prayer and hope is that the athletes experience a similar appreciation and respect for each other. That as the memory of the games fade, where they finished becomes not a matter of winning and losing but of wonder. That as that happens they see not their momentary glory or failure, but the glory of God who blessed them so. And that seeing that inspires their faith. As watching their performance in the Olympics–to which I give God glory–has inspired mine.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Chris_Tomlinson Chris_Tomlinson

      Hi Andy,

      Thanks for your comments. I will take them to heart and consider what you've said.

      I think you're right. What Lindsey said does not preclude her from being a faithful Christian, and I really didn't mean to make the post about her faith. I tried to add in comments in the post and at the end in an attempt to make that clear. But perhaps the nature of the post itself goes too far in creating that impression.

      My original intent was to help draw our attention from the temporal to the eternal, to take something we're all interested in at the moment and point us back to Jesus. I know I need this as a daily reminder.

      I'm no better than Lindsey. She has given up everything for this; it's why she works hard. I have done the same with writing. I've sacrificed my daily relationship with Jesus and my wife and my friends for the sake of writing, and I've been chasing a perishable wreath. This post was written in part as an exhortation to myself, which most of them tend to be, but it should perhaps contain a more repentant tone. I hope these comments will suffice.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  • Judd

    CT et al.

    I am a pastor in the Vail Valley. The overflow of the heart the mouth with speak. Lindsey makes no mention of Jesus. Tebow does. Breeze does. Lindsey's comments are more like Tom Brady than Tim Tebow.

    Brady,
    " ‘Hey man, this is what is.’ I reached my goal, my dream, my life. Me, I think, ‘God, it's got to be more than this.’ I mean this isn't, this can't be what it's all cracked up to be.”

    What's the answer?

    “I wish I knew. I wish I knew,” says Brady. "I love playing football and I love being quarterback for this team. But at the same time, I think there are a lot of other parts about me that I’m trying to find."

    Read the whole thing here: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/11/03/60minut...

    Great illustration CT and let's go with what is said not what we want to be true. Pray for her to accept Christ or become bold in her faith.

    Judd

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Chris_Tomlinson Chris_Tomlinson

      Thanks, Judd. You've brought a valuable perspective to the conversation, and I really do appreciate it.

  • Steve

    Chris- I was forwarded a link to your book CRAVE, I read the first chapter on line at Amazon, searched your link at cravesomethingmore and want to read more. Your posts are solid, uplifting and make me think of my own walk with Jesus. Your writings make me CRAVE Jesus' face and to (try) and tell the story of salvation to more of my friends, business and personal.

    You've got a great style that challenges but doesn't berate me for being human. Keep providing uplifting stories of real-life people that experience life 60 minutes an hour and make the same mistakes I make. I especially like your last comment in the blog above, "I hope she is!" With people like you praying for her and neighbors, friends and other believer's supporting her, assuredly she will feel the hand of God upon her life.

    I'm going back to Amazon to buy CRAVE. Cheers- Steve

  • http://www.fallenandflawed.com/ Demian Farnworth

    You know, the Olympics are good for inspiring us: When you learn about the grinding routines, endless training and never-give-up attitude these athletes have, you feel like a loser and think, come on, let's do this–this being articulating the gospel to the ends of the earth–no matter the cost. We, as you pointed out, have an eternal award. That's a beautiful thing to look forward to.

  • melmollner

    Thanks for your words CT- this topic resonates with me on so many levels. My desire is to be excellent for His excellency, but there's a slippery slope (that I continue to wrestle with) of taking the glory for myself.

    We were created in the likeness and image of The Creator…"to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Eph 2:10)

    But all to often I pursue the good works and not the One who created me and prepared the works for me. My glory MUST be hidden in the cross of Christ. If I passionately pursue achievement or glory for myself (even when disguised as ministry or philanthropy)- the moment I think I've found it Matthew 10:39 says I've lost.

    “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it”

    (Matthew 10:39)

    Let us pursue Christ with all the heart, discipline and vigor of a world class athlete and be surprised by joy when our Creator works in and through us to achieve greatness for his glory!

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