I recently saw this segment from 60 Minutes on Michael Phelps.
I love to swim, and I'm so glad my kids love to swim too. (It's been so great to coach Kenni in learning to swim the freestyle stroke recently. She's all excited to pass the swim test at camp next week so she can swim out to the deeper part of the lake with her friends.)
I swam competitively in High School but was not good enough to go beyond that. However, knowing something of the sport and the training required at the highest levels, I have a certain appreciation for the sport and it's competitors.
When I watched this piece, there were two significant elements that resonated with me greatly:
First, during the interview they talk about the specialized enclosure where Michael sleeps. It's a transparent box-like enclosure that surrounds his bed in his room. When inside, it simulates being in an environment with the same oxygen level at ~9000ft elevation. So for the average person, being in that chamber would make it more difficult to breathe. (ie get oxygen to your lungs, brain, muscles etc.) For Michael however, it conditions his body to acclimate to that oxygen level, so when he competes in an environment that is more oxygen rich - he has a greater advantage.
Second, in the teaser to the interview Anderson Cooper shares that the last few years has been the most difficult times of Phelps career. *WHAT! Are you kidding?!* He won more gold medals than any other swimmer in a single Olympics - IN HISTORY! That's incredible! However, as Michael talks about his life and experiences we begin to see that even as one of the greatest athletes in the world; arguably the best swimmers that has ever competed - cannot fulfill himself.
This makes me think about the Psalmist words...
For the word of the LORD is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. 5 The LORD loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love. 6 By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth. 7 He gathers the waters of the sea into jars; he puts the deep into storehouses. 8 Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the people of the world revere him. 9 For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. 10 The LORD foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. 11 But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. (Ps. 33:4-11)
Verse 6 basically says that God put life into our universe with His breath. In other parts of Scripture the Holy Spirit is described as Breath or Wind...(ie Jn. 20:22)
It also makes me think about spending time with God more intentionally as well. When I spend time with God I need to be in a space and time that I am alert and completely undistracted.
(Mt. 6:6 says, But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.)
I should have some kind of "enclosure" or "special place" or room where I am able to breathe in the enriched Breath of God, so when I find myself needing to be on my best game... that I will have a greater advantage to compete against temptation and sin that tries to bring me down.
How's your spiritual-breathing?
Do you have a time and a place where you go to inhale the fresh life-giving breath of God and His Word?I really hope Michael comes to a point in his life where he realizes his significance in Christ as well. I'm stoked to watch him compete at the London Games, but.. then what?
If you don't currently have one, make a plan today to carve out regular time to "breathe in God" - deeply. He's the only one that can provide us significance, fulfillment and success beyond ourselves.