When the Olympics come on TV, they are very inspiring, but they also get into my head. I’ve noticed that after two weeks of listening to the commentators talk abut the athletes, I start commentating everything in my head. “Now in order for this to go her way, Joy’s timing has to be perfect. Here she comes to the first obstacle…Laundry. She’s a little slow opening the drier door, but she’s making up a lot of time loading from the washer. Look at the concentration! She’s been working on this event for months, especially folding the fitted sheets. But when I talked to her earlier, she felt she had what it takes to make it to the gold.”
When I watched gymnastics, they kept saying “She just has to be perfect. That’s what she needs to win the gold. There is no room for mistakes.” They go on to talk about every toe that isn’t pointed and the slight hesitations that will bring “big” deductions. And it gets into my head. “I don’t know. Joy took time to write a blog this morning and then run. That’s a lot of time for herself and her kids have been in front of the TV for three hours. That’s a major deduction because it’s only supposed to be an hour or less. She’s going to have a hard time making that up later in the course. At this level, you just can’t make those kind of mistakes. We may have just seen her fall out of medal contention as Mother of the Year. That’s why mental concentration and focus is so important in these games.”
I end up commentating my day and aiming for perfection. What’s worse is that I start commentating on other people’s routines and lives. Not only do I nitpick my life, but I can nitpick their lives too. In the church we have become very good at doing this. It’s practically an Olympic sport. The commentators have so much experience that they think they know exactly what the judges will say, what the judges will see, and what is important to the judge. Most of the time, they are not that far off. But the truth is that none of the commentators are the judges. They are merely observers who make comments on someone else’s work.
What happens in the church is that the commentators begin to act and behave like they are the judges. As observers, we think we know everything the Judge will think about given situations. We have so much experience with the Judge and the rule Book that we think we can accurately predict what the outcome will be. And as commentators we feel the need to say something. But the truth is that there is only one Judge. And some day when I stand before the Judge, in spite of what all the commentators have said including the one in my head, this Judge will look at me and give me a perfect score. Not because I performed perfectly, but because I have trusted in the One who did. My routine here on earth full of unpointed toes and falling off the beam and complete failure will be covered by the perfect performance of Jesus Christ. He stands between me and the Judge and has given me his perfect score. (Hebrews 2:24)
Can you imagine what would happen on any team if the athletes were to start commentating on each other? During their routine you hear the athletes on the bench saying “She missed that in practice all the time. You have to practice that skill perfectly in order to make it work. Oh, that’s going to be a big deduction. The rest of us are going to have be even better to make up for that one.” And when she comes off the bench instead of hugs and encouraging words, she gets a list of everything her teammates noticed that the judges are going to take deductions for.
But this is what we have done to each other. When we have a really bad fall, we come back to a cold bench full of crossed arms and scowling looks to a team that no longer wants to claim us. We forget that we are all just athletes, running the same race. We were never meant to be the commentators or the Judge. We can’t run or comment on someone else’s race. We are not in the position to judge whether or not they perfectly followed the rules or how well the other runner performed. We’ve heard the athletes say, “I just had to come out here today and run my race.” In that moment, it doesn’t matter what the commentators are saying on TV, and they have no control over what the judges will see. They just have to do their best, do what they trained to do. They trust the judges to do their job with fairness and integrity.
We can trust our Judge as well. We follow the example of Christ who continually entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. (I Perter 2:23) “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us looking to Jesus…seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
When I am tempted to become a commentator instead of an athlete, I must remember Paul’s words. “Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct.” (Galatians 6:4-5)
In these final days of the Olympics, watch how the athletes encourage each other, even if they are from different countries. When one of them messes up, their team is still there waiting for them to come back. Sometimes they just stand there and give each other space. Sometimes they offer an encouraging touch on the shoulder. But the team is still there. When an athlete watches a teammate mess up, they know that they could have done the same thing. They remember the last competition when they messed it up big time. When a teammate succeeds, the whole team celebrates. When my teammate falls, I don’t want to push her away or p0int out her mistakes. I want to stand beside her. I don’t want to be the commentators or the judges, pointing out mistakes. When a fellow athlete wins, I want to be there rejoicing with her. “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24)
Now if I could just turn off that commentator in my head…