During the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics I particularly enjoyed watching the Gymnastics and the Swimming. I followed our own Canadian athletes and of course some of the favorites to win medals with fascination such as U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps and U.S. gymnast Simone Biles. As a writer one of the things I always enjoy is listening to the commentators and hearing the background stories of these athletes. This is where we get to find out what drives these competitors to victory; what makes them tick; who and what is behind them, supporting them. Although they are the ones standing on the podium nobody makes it there alone.
In the case of Phelps; “the most decorated Olympian of all time” with 28 medals, including 23 Gold * the commentators talked of Phelps comeback after a particularly low time in his life involving alcohol and drug use after the 2012 Olympics. Eventually he found himself alone and suicidal when he credits NFL star Ray Lewis with giving him the book The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren* and convincing him to go into Rehab. This led Phelps on a personal inner journey of healing, a reconciliation with his estranged father and his eventual comeback at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics.
Commentators also spoke numerous times of the background of Simone Biles; 2016 individual all-around, vault and floor gold medalist* who was born to drug addicted parents and spent her formative years in and out of foster care until she was adopted by her grand-parents, who raised and supported her in her gymnastics career.
Both Phelps and Biles wowed audiences, made their countries, families and friends proud and stood numerous times on the coveted top pier of the podium to receive their gold medals. It makes for a glorious snap shot of victory but it is far from the whole story, far from what makes them the person that they are and who they will be when they step down from the limelight. Their back story is what makes them real and just like the rest of us; someone who never stops growing and never stops needing inner healing and the support of others along the way to help make them the best that they can be.
I too have a back story; one that goes all the way back to my formative childhood days as the second of four daughters in an ongoing abusive home. One that involves buried memories that only re-surfaced as an adult in an amazing God-moment, occurring just a few weeks before a sister came forth with her own memories, confirming mine. It’s a back story that involves hours upon hours, years upon years, of sitting in a counsellor’s chair, peeling back the layers of hurt and trauma so that I could heal and become not the depressed, wounded person that I was but who I was meant to be. My quest in all of this is not a gold medal but perhaps someday a memoir that I can share with others to help bring some healing into their own life, but even without that, it is to simply become who I am and was always meant to be on the inside; who I am even without being published in any way, shape or form, just me, as God made me. It’s the most freeing feeling in the world and what I aim for. To be myself. And yet to never forget that it has been with the love and support of others too who have helped to bring me this far.
Sharing my back story has quite frankly been a serious challenge for me; one that I have been working on for quite some time, pushing my vulnerable boundaries here and there to see if I can handle sharing this bit or that. So there may or may not be an actual memoir someday, with my entire story all in one place. That’s okay. Maybe bits and pieces are all I will ever share. But I will still strive for more; strive for my own personal gold, silver or bronze or perhaps just cross the finish line, whatever that will look like for me, and be content that I competed, back story and all.
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-17 (NIV)