Episode 23: God’s Gifts

Not everyone is as big a sports addict as I am; I know that. I just find it exhilarating to watch humans excel at something. And so it is that I love watching sport at the highest level.

Seeing  Greg Luganis complete a near perfect dive in the Olympics; watching Serena Williams fire back a return of service that others would never get to; seeing old footage of Babe Ruth hit his prodigious clouts or Jackie Robinson dance on the basepaths; learning about how Diana Nyadd swum the distance between Cuba and Florida at theage of 64; reading as a child the story of Roger Bannister breaking the four minute mile.

There is something sublime about watching someone who has spent a lifetime perfecting a skill they perform that is incredibly difficult, but they do it with grace and elegance. They make the profoundly difficult look easy. They serve to give witness to what the Psalmist wrote when she penned the line: “What are mere mortals that you are mindful of them? And yet, you have made them little less than a God.”

We are poets, painters and preachers.

We are composers, songwriters, and novelists.

We are athletes, inventors, and actors.

Shakespeare has Hamlet speak to Rosencratz and Gildenstern: ‘What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an Angel! in apprehension how like a god!

One of my favorite movies is Chariots of Fire. It is the tale of two Olympic athletes. One of them, a sprinter from Ireland, is challenged by a family member who thinks he is wasting his time running when he should be serving God. He tells her: “I believe God made me for a purpose; for our mission in China. But God also made me fast, and when I run I feel her pleasure.”

Ah, yes, there is a part of me that feels the same thing. That God made us fast, or smart, or agile, or witty, or intelligent, or artful, or – well, you get the idea; that God does that ennobles us. God endows us with gifts and talents and skills. When we give ourselves over to the discipline of not just using them, but using them for God’s greater glory  – then God delights in what we make happen.

Not unlike the pride and joy I felt when watching my own children find and express their talent, God feels delight in seeing each of us live to our greatest potential. The effort to name and claim our gift or skill, and in the execution of it bring beauty and industry into being is something we can all delight in.

And so it is I find myself often watching grownups play. The fastball of Randy Johnson and the poetry of Emily Dickinson; Beethoven’s 5th and Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks; Dostoevsky’s The Brother’s Karamazov and Van Gogh’s Starry Night; Cecile Tyson on the Broadway stage and Aretha Franklin at the Kennedy Center: all of them delight me and make me happy to be alive.

Express yourself. Delight another by giving yourself fully and freely to that which brings you joy. And stop every once in a while to take delight in another’s gift. For along the way, God surprises us with beauty and grace, elegance and wit when as fellow traveling companions they find a way of honoring the sacred on their own journeys Into the Mystic.