Sunday, August 17. 2008
This is my last post until after my race. Iíll have a lot to write about on the 22nd and Iím looking forward to sharing my experience over the next couple of days with all of you.
The race is at 9 am local time on the 21st. Iíve told most people that this means 6 pm Pacific on the 20th, but thereís no telling when NBC is going to air the race. Thereís a guarantee that NBC will not show the entire race and itís likely that youíll get to see 5 minutes here or there throughout the night (it may also be on MSNBC or USA or another channel so check the local listings). If you want to ensure that you are watching the race LIVE then youíll have to go to nbcolympics.com and watch it on the internet.
The posts over the past month have covered a number of topics but I left out matter that is important for me to share and may be interesting for you to read. Itís a testament of faith in relation to anxiety before big swimming races.
One of the great dangers of a successful athlete sharing his faith is the backlash reaction of an occasionally hostile audience who may think that I believe that God took my side in the competition. I donít believe that, but I do believe that God gave me peace when I asked for it. Hereís the story:
Back when I was a pool swimmer I would get very anxious before big races. Behind the blocks I told myself that I had spent so much time swimming and I had made so many sacrifices that if I didnít do well in the race those sacrifices would have been wasted. I would stand up on the blocks and my heart would be beating out of my chest. My muscles would tighten and my confidence would sink. I was paralyzed by anxiety in the moment, so much so that I couldnít perform when the gun went off.
About a year ago, before the USA Olympic Trials in Fort Myers, I realized that I needed to confront my anxiety instead of hoping that it wouldnít surface at the last moment. I offered up a simple prayer of thanksgiving, and asked the Lord to give me peace of mind in those horrible moments before the race. And, thatís exactly what happened - I wasnít anxious at any point before or during the race.
That moment in Fort Myers stuck with me when I went back into training for the World Championships, but I didnít really put all of the pieces together. I knew that I had taken a major step in my faith, but the larger picture of what it all meant was still a bit hazy. Then, as the race in Seville approached, I came across a song that I really enjoyed - Mat Kearneyís ďUndeniable.Ē
On the day of the 10K, the race that would determine the Olympics, I looked at the race course and said to myself ďby lunchtimeÖ.youíll know.Ē I put on my Ipod and found ďUndeniableĒ on the list. I stood there listening to the song and the words of the chorus jumped out at me:
Itís undeniable how brilliant You are
In an unreliable world You shine like a star
Itís unforgettable now that weíve come this far
Itís unmistakable that Youíre undeniable.
The line that got me most was ďItís unforgettable now that weíve come this far.Ē I stood there just a few feet from the water and it dawned on me that my long journey was a deliberate path to realize something that day: The highs of my career (1999 World University Games) had been necessary to make the lows (everything from 2000 to 2006) even greater. The lows were necessary to make me realize that the highs were fleeting and that joy in life doesnít come from winning or losing. The joy of winning is temporal, the joy of the Lord is everlasting. Not only did I have peace in the moment in Seville, but I experienced an incredible amount of joy before and during the race. (At least until the pain got to me).
In the year leading up to the race I did make the request to God to give me the strength to do my best performance, but the realization of peace and joy before the race is the testimony. I had always been such a nervous wreck in my career, but at the most nerve-packed moments Iíve ever been apart of, I had complete peace.
I believe that God is looking over all of us right now. I donít know why one person makes the Olympics and another doesnít but I do know that whatever happens in the 10K here in Beijing Iíll be at peace. If I am successful or not I will leave the race knowing that God was with me on the journey that got me here and heíll continue to be with me long after Beijing.
My testimony is my own, so itís probably not going to help you a lot if youíve got anxiety issues. Aside from reading the Bible, which from my own experience can be incredibly difficult to follow at times, a good resource is ITunes sermons. (You get the benefit of the information without all the heavy lifting). The sermon that really helped clear up a lot of my issues was ďThe Umpire of PeaceĒ from 10-22-06 at Reality Carpentaria.
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