What the Rio 2016 Olympics Reveal About God

As I scroll through the Rio 2016 app on my phone, soaking up every video highlight, I wonder what makes the summer Olympics so mesmerizing. Maybe their infrequency helps them resist assimilation into the normalcy of life that is Sunday afternoon football or Monday night hockey. And I wonder about the inner life of Olympians. What’s it like to be Michael Phelps commuting home after one of those long days we all have, when nobody’s watching and everything goes wrong, wondering “Why am I doing this? Does it really matter?”

Sometimes I doubt the significance of my work as a nurse practitioner. And some of my stay-at-home friends wonder whether parenting and housekeeping is doing enough. Others feel unfulfilled in their work at the bank, school, or restaurant. But what about people who tumble and jump and swim for a living? Are the Olympics just another version of gladiator fights, less gruesome but equally excessive and ultimately pointless?

I don’t think so. While Simone Biles’s life as an American gymnast might look nothing like mine, she goes to work just like I do. If you’ve followed this blog, you’ve heard me talk about work as one of the ways we unfold God’s hidden potential in creation, displaying it for others to see and using it for their good, so that they can worship God more than they did before.

So, one friends builds digital Xray machines that will allow doctors in remote villages to take images and send them to radiologists for immediate interpretation. Our God made a world where the benefits of medical technology can begin to reach even the most obscure locations. Another friend works as a visual artist, rendering astronomy, trees, and machinery into her depictions of the human body to help viewers understand the wonder and brokenness of human life. Then, there’s the chef at church who offers his customers insight, by the mouthful, into God’s creativity.

Like each of these professions, Olympic athletes offer us a glimpse of God’s glory if we’re paying attention. As Phelps’s hamstrings and biceps propel him through the water and as Biles’s quads and triceps launch her into a double layout and twist, we get a glimpse of the wonder God infused into the human body—a slice of his splendor that you’ll never see in me.

So this is my thanks to Phelps and Biles and the other 11,000 Olympians. Thanks for giving me a glimpse of God’s glory and, perhaps, what our resurrection bodies might be like.

Photo courtesy of Agência Brasil Fotografias