"Did you watch the Games last night?" That sure is a common question lately, isn't it? With the summer Olympics taking place in Atlanta, these are exciting days and nights for the whole world. The participants present us with so many inspiring examples of grace, discipline, courage -- often along with great happiness.
I've always liked the way the sports commentators help us get to know the athletes. They report on the hard work, the fears overcome, and other day-to-day obstacles the participants have conquered in order to represent their countries.
In a way, the viewing audience plays a "backstage" role in sports. How you think can contribute to the Games. It's not just rooting for people or hoping that records will be broken that makes the difference; it's something more.
Being a Christian Scientist, I've found that God must be a part of everything in my life. I've found that by letting my thought reflect on the nature of God I can help others. To the degree that we feel the power of God deeply, we experience more good. God is pure good. He expresses His goodness in us. What God is expressing is always spiritual. Although the 400-meter hurdles aren't spiritual, the speed, agility, stamina, and grace the competitors display have a spiritual source. This expression is the real goodness, the true substance, of the Olympics, and of life itself.
"But what went ye out for to see?" Christ Jesus asked the people (Luke 7:25). That same question applies today: What are we watching for? Dignity or humiliation? Agility or injury? It's worth the time to look for the expression of God's goodness in the Olympic competitors and in one another. We all can be happy when we see success because it's not just victory for a nation; it's triumph for humankind.
Today in the sports section of a major newspaper I noticed how, at some point, almost every article (not just the ones about the Olympics) made some reference to one thing -- injury. Whether discussing new injuries, nagging injuries, career-ending injuries, or rehabilitation, these reports portrayed suffering to be as much a part of an athlete's experience as are the final scores and times. Sadly, after reading the eight pages about sports, I had counted thirty-four references to injury.
What a contrast pain and damage are to the real fun and fulfillment of participating in or watching sports. But wait. God does not express His goodness in injury. We don't need to bow down to images in thought depicting God or God's creation as hurt or some way incapable. We can spectate positively as we look for God's control and the athlete's expression of God. Thought determines experience, so it is vital to recognize the goodness of God.
The description of a participant might contradict what he or she actually is like. And an athlete's attitude may be entirely different from what someone else thinks. So, while a particular commentator may see for an athlete pressure and bewilderment, that doesn't need to influence the competitor or the audience. One recovering drug abuser who is a professional baseball player, implying that people are often jealous of recovery, said recently that he knows many people are expecting him to fail. He said that they even want him to fail, so that they can have another person in the public eye to condemn. But no one who reflects God and is created by God can fall victim to envy, malice, or hatred.
Yes, sports reveal much of what God expresses in His creation. They offer the possibility of victories for everyone. Victories in expressing good-in expressing God. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, said: "Belief in a material basis, from which may be deduced all rationality, is slowly yielding to the idea of a metaphysical basis, looking away from matter to Mind as the cause of every effect" (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 268). If someone asks, "Are you going to watch the Olympics tonight?" you might think to yourself, "Yes, and while I'm at it I'm going to watch for the wonderful effects of God."
You can find more articles like this one in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine.