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Olympic Gold Where You Least Expect It

August 14th, 2008

Focus Text: Proverbs 1: 8-9 (NLT)

8 My child, listen when your father corrects you.
      Don’t neglect your mother’s instruction.
 9 What you learn from them will crown you with grace
      and be a chain of honor around your neck.


Stop Here and Reflect Before Reading Ahead

You’d have to have been living in a cave somewhere to not have heard all the hype about Michael Phelps and his quest for the world record for Olympic gold medals. Last night, the twenty-three year old U.S. swimming phenom from Maryland might as well have had fins and gills instead of arms and legs as he shattered world record after world record- most impressive being an unprecedented eleven gold medals to his name.  Eleven!  I couldn’t even swim that many laps across the pool!

As Laura and I were beginning the arduous process of putting Sadie down for the night (if you can call it for the night . . . try for three hours,) we watched as NBC broadcasted the historic moment on international television.  Besides the obvious fanfare that surrounded the event, the other thing that caught my eye was the camera’s repeated capturing of Phelp’s mother.  Interviews and still shots of Michael and his mother were plastered all across the screen and at the moment he waved “bye-bye” to the old record, we all beheld his mom cheering and shouting for her boy with tears of pride running down her face.

Many articles and news stories have been released leading up to the Olympic games in China that have heralded Michael Phelps as possibly the greatest athlete to ever complete for Olympic hardware.  Some of them have even analyzed the physical and physiological attributes of the swimmer, determining that lactic acid returns to his body after the breakdown of muscle at a rate unknown to common people.  Literally, his body seems made for strenuous activity.  His wingspan is six feet, seven inches and his feet are a “flipper-like” size fourteen!  The man is like a human fish!

In addition to that, Michael’s personal website reveals that, at the age of fifteen, he was the youngest male record holder in modern history.  Bypassing his collegiate career, he went straight to professional swimming and shortly on to world dominance.

Couple that with his role in securing gold medals for the United States in an Olympic year that so far has been dominated by the Chinese, Michael Phelps is nothing less than an international celebrity.  Adorned with American flags, cheered by millions, and applauded by President Bush himself who was on hand to view the historic moment, tears of joy and patriotism streamed down his face.  

Where did the camera pan to next?  You guessed it . . . his mom.

There’s something about a person’s family that makes even the most interesting story more endearing.  We want to watch Phil Mickelson embrace his children after winning The Masters.  We want to mourn the death of Michael Jordan’s beloved father.  And we want to celebrate with Michael Phelp’s mother as she roots for her son.

Family, and specifically parenthood, is about sacrifice and influence.  I guarantee that when Phelp’s mom cheers, she can recall with great detail the thousands of trips to the practice pools– the thousands of swim meets– the nights that tears of disappointment were shed over defeats– the hours of tutoring that were required to keep a young athlete on the right academic path.  Sure, we all clap too; but his mom has way more to clap for.

Proverbs 1: 8-9 leads the reader down the next path of wisdom . . . and it’s a place that many of us don’t automatically want to go.  In essence, God is telling us that the correction of our parents will lead us to grace and honor.  

Correction?  Are you sure?  Come on, dude!  There has to be another way!  Clean my room?  Take out the trash?  Do my homework?  Make my curfew?  These sound like they’re really going to set me apart in this world!  Yeah right!

Oh, and don’t think that these kinds of issues are confined to the young.  As a grown man, the influence of my parents is still a key component in my life.  But just ask Michael Phelps and I bet he wouldn’t roll his eyes at the loving, and no doubt disciplined care that his mother provided for him all those years.

This passage says that by listening to the “correction” and “instruction” of our parents that we will adorn ourselves with a “crown” of “grace” and a “chain of honor.”  

Chain of honor?  Sounds a lot like the gold medal to me!  Maybe ours isn’t setting world records or establishing global athletic dominance, but rest assured that there are rewards to be achieved when we are willing to listen and enact the wisdom of our parents or parent-figures.  You want wisdom?  It doesn’t alway come by osmosis or by meditation.  Sometimes, it comes by just listening to that parent that you’re convinced has no idea what they’re talking about.  News flash . . . they may know more than you think.

Is that a popular concept?  Probably not.  But then again, how many world records do most normal people hold?  Yeah, I think you get the point.


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