With the Olympics in full swing, this seems a timely topic, mankind’s indomitable spirit. It’s knowing the stories of so many of the athletes as we watch them compete that makes the Olympics more interesting, more personal. It seems each athlete has sacrificed much to be where they are now, each has had many obstacles to overcome, each has faced adversity and won. To me, it seems, they are all victors already, just by virtue of being where they are. They are winners before they ever step onto the field, court, track, arena or dive into the pool. They have persevered and they have prevailed. They are there.
I don’t have to wait four years however, to be inspired by and to witness an indomitable spirit in those around me. It is there for me to see every day if I will but take notice of the people I come in contact with every day. If only I knew their stories, I would realize what they have been through, what they have dealt with and what they have overcome just to be where they are in the moment in which I encounter them. Everybody has a story. But our stories most often remain unknown.
My exercise class is a good example of a place where I see this “indomitable spirit” lived out on a daily basis. We have a wide range of ages, from the 40’s all the way to some individuals in their 90’s, we run the gamut. Needless to say, those in their 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s are an inspiration and encouragement to us all, just by being there on a consistent basis. Often, in many circumstances, just showing up is a victory in itself. I think of one woman who came in spite of her Parkinson’s, which made it progressively more difficult for her to do the routines and another who came until she could no longer drive herself to class. Another comes faithfully and sits on a chair to do the routines, moving her arms (with weights) and feet to the music and steps of the exercises. Another young woman comes despite her M.S., which the casual observer would never suspect that she has. All are daily overcoming their obstacles to good health and a more fulfilling life. They are an inspiration because they exhibit courage on a daily basis.
Overcoming adversity comes in many forms. It looks different in each individual life. But there are some common threads, shared by all who refuse to give up, to give in, to quit showing up even though weary. Adversity can bring out the worst in us or the best in us, it depends on how we respond to our challenging circumstances. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” (James 1:2-3) Perseverance, a common thread necessary to reach any goal. “But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10)
It is precisely the hard times, the difficulties, the trials, the challenges in our lives that make us stronger and prepare us for what will come next. Adversity refines us as it forces us to change, adapt and grow. Without it we would stagnate, instead of growing into who we were meant to become. We can have hope during our darkest and most difficult times, knowing that God will not only bring us through but change us for the better in the process. He does not give up on us, therefore we should never give up on ourselves. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lam. 3:22-23)
“. . . let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2) We each have a race to run, a race marked out for us, which will look different than the races others are struggling to run. A race that is ours alone, a race different yet the same in so many unseen ways as the races those around us are running. We face common obstacles and we face those obstacles unique to ourselves. All contribute to the refining and defining of our character unless we avoid them or run from them. A life of ease and comfort would present no opportunity for the indomitable spirit that lives within each one of us to grow and shine out into this world. I have seen peoples’ indomitable spirits shine brightest in the darkest of times. It’s what enables people to rebuild after a natural disaster or come together after a terror attack.
I will be inspired as I watch the Olympic athletes and hear their stories in these next few weeks. But I will continue to witness and be inspired by the people I encounter every day, living their lives with quiet courage and a smile. The ladies in my exercise class have something very important in common with the Olympic athletes, perseverance. That spirit that never gives up, that keeps on showing up, that beautiful, indomitable spirit. YOU GO GIRLS !
sincerely, Grace Day