Few events have motivated me in my life like the 1996 Summer Olympics. I know, I know, it was twenty years ago, but it left an impact on my life. No, I didn’t become an athlete, even though I seriously thought I could become the world’s first nine year old self-taught gymnast; but it was the first time I remember truly looking up to someone in the spotlight. I thought Dominique Moceanu was the absolute coolest girl in the world. I remember reading her biography and standing in line to meet her at Gallery Furniture. I thought it was awesome that she was from Houston, just like me. I mimicked her floor routine and clapped along to Devil Went Down to Georgia. In the words of my mom, she sparkled. She had charisma, and she commanded attention.
As much as I loved Dominique, I came to respect Kerri Strug. My college roommate and I even had a Wall of Inspirational Women, and Kerri most definitely made the cut (another topic for another time). As I watched the video of her famous vault yesterday on its 20th anniversary, I got a little choked up. She was only eighteen, and she had the United States on her shoulders. Her vault was the gold medal deal-breaker. Dominique Moceanu had fallen on both vaults, putting all the pressure on Kerri to stick it. On her first vault, she landed badly, hurting her ankle. It was apparent she was injured and scared. Her coach, Bela Karolyi, just kept saying “You can do it!” Another report said she asked him, “Do we need this?” When she realized we did, she pulled it together, did the most beautiful vault and put that foot down long enough to land with her arms and head held high. Only then did she let her self collapse to the floor in her iconic moment of Olympic fame.
What strikes me most is her obedience. She was just a teenager. She could have said “Absolutely not. I’m hurt, this is it.” But her coach told her we needed her, and she could do it. So she did. I would bet it was excruciating and more nerve-wracking than any performance I will ever give. I can’t imagine that type of pressure, especially at such a young age. When I look at most of the Biblical heroes though, I see a common theme. They obeyed what God asked them to do. Let’s take a quick look:
David- defeated a giant with a slingshot
Peter-got out of the boat and walked on water
Moses-led the Israelites out of Egypt
Mary- gave birth to Jesus
Daniel- refused to pray to anyone but God
Esther- would not compromise her values or abandon her people
Obviously, this is not, by any means, an exhaustive list, but it shows my point. Greatness comes from being obedient to God’s calling. Obedience may look like teaching Sunday school or making dinner for a church event. It may look like giving a twenty dollar bill to an acquaintance because you heard money was tight or a care package to a deployed Marine. God may lay on your heart to pay for the person behind you in line at Chick-Fil-A or to leave a note of encouragement for a coworker. God’s urgings are limitless. Obedience may be these everyday acts of kindness, but they could also be the stereotypical call to serve in “deepest, darkest Africa”. I don’t know what He will call me to do, but I do know I have to be obedient. Jesus told us in John 14:23, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word.” (NKJV) It doesn’t get much simpler than that. We also read in James 1:22 that we must be “doers of the word, and not hearers only.” (NKJV) The Bible is pretty clear about obedience. Christianity is a faith of action. We cannot just “sit on our blessed assurance” as my Uncle Peter says. The Holy Spirit leads us to go and we follow.
If Kerri Strug would have chosen not to complete a second vault, we may not have won the gold medal. She would not have made history with her coach carrying her to the platform, and the Magnificent Seven may have been just another Olympic team. If David would have chosen to run away instead of fight, the entire lineage of Christ could have looked different. If Daniel would have given in and prayed to King Darius, we would not have the great example of faith and deliverance from the lions’ den. What amazing things could I miss out on by being disobedient? Hasn’t God proven over and over that miracles happen when we trust Him? James 4:17 also reminds us that “to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.”(NKJV). So not only are we missing out on blessings, we are sinning when we choose to disobey. It will not always be the easy road- in fact, it might be the harder road. But, oh, it’s worth it. To know we are in line with God’s desires for our lives is such a wonderful place to be in. You can do it!