It’s quite the story! A real heart-warmer, just when we needed one.
Allyson Felix surpassed Carl Lewis for the highest number of U.S. Olympic track and field medals. Her Olympic journey began at the 2004 Games in Athens when Allyson was 18. And here’s the deal: no woman has ever run faster at an older age.
I’ll quote from Allyson’s post on Instagram: “It might sound cliché, but getting to that starting line is an incredible victory for me. I’ve experienced the hardest years of my life in this journey and by God’s grace I’m here. With a heart full of gratitude I’m taking space to remember all it took to get here. So when you see me on the track I hope you understand my fight. As an athlete who was told I was too old, as a woman who was told to know my place, as a mother who wasn’t sure I would live to raise my daughter. I hope you see that, for me, it’s about so much more than what the clock says.”
So. Much. More.
The most decorated track star in U.S. history chose to carry and deliver her daughter (now age 2) despite intense pressure to abort her. It was a high-risk pregnancy, and her corporate sponsor Nike cut Felix’s pay by 70% out of fear that the athlete would underperform. To her credit, Felix brought attention to the unfairness of that decision, and Nike has since worked to undo the gender double standard.
Felix has walked with Christ since she was a little girl. As the daughter of a seminary professor and a mom who also loved the Lord, Allyson’s faith has been shaped and strengthened through adversity, but her spirit seems to be marked indelibly by a glass-half-full perspective if ever there were one. I’ll share just a short segment from a 2012 interview: “In the season of life that I am in now, I feel so blessed that God has given me the talent of running. My running is an amazing gift from God and I want to use it to the best of my ability to glorify Him. You have to have this passion and you have to have a reason for doing what you’re doing. And there really has to be a purpose there, I think that’s what drives success. I know my talent is from God. And that’s my purpose: to run to glorify Him. I’m thankful that I have been given this platform so that I can share my faith with the world!”
When we think about glorifying God by the lives we’ve been given, we should remember the Old Testament passage where God put His glory on display for Moses (Exodus 33:18 – 34:8). What we discover there should be highly instructive for us, and worth rehearsing from time to time. What Moses most encounters there is the character of God Himself. I’ll offer a few suggestions stemming from that text …
- We glorify God by telling the truth, particularly the truth about us. Nothing is as powerful as true confession.
- We glorify God by extending forgiveness to others. Yes, especially the undeserved kind.
- We glorify God by stepping out in faith. I know you don’t know all the details yet, but at least you know who does.
- We glorify God by bearing spiritual fruit. He wants to use us for good purposes, right here and right now.
- We glorify God by giving thanks. It’s the best natural antidepressant I’ve ever experienced.
- We glorify God by praying without ceasing. Walking closely with God transforms our uncertainties into adventures.
- We glorify God by doing whatever we’ve been put here to do. Maybe for you it’s not running – but know that your calling and platform are just as eternally important as those of the woman I’m honoring here today.
At a time when sports, entertainment, academia, and the media are heavily dominated by a worldview that devalues the life of the unborn – and that’s really the tip of the iceberg in this latest round of an anti-life popular culture – I’m so grateful that Allyson Felix stands out like the shining star she is.
Our God is a faithful God, friends. You and I, like Allyson, ought to be “taking space to remember all it took to get here.”