With Strength and Dignity
“She is clothed with strength and dignity; She can laugh at the days to come.” Proverbs 31:25 (NIV)
Missy Franklin burst onto the international stage at the age of just 17. A senior in high school, she contributed to two Olympic world records and went home with five medals—four of them gold.
With endorsement deals, a horde of fans and a place on the University of California, Berkeley swim team, life looked easy for Missy. If she put in the hard work at practice, she saw the pay-off in competitions.
But at the Pan Pacific Championships in Australia in 2014, things began to change. During one of her workouts, she found herself frozen with back spasms.
“I vividly remember right when I went into spasms in Australia,” she says. “We didn’t know how they were going to get me home from the pool to the hotel because I couldn't move.”
Not only did she experience extreme pain, she began to experience the worry that her body wouldn’t do what she had trained it to. Her strength wouldn’t be enough to sustain her, physically or emotionally.
“I had never been through anything like that before,” Missy remembers. “I think that was really the first time in my life where I had to open my hands and literally give it all to God, because it was like, ‘I have nothing left.’”
Now, as she sets her sights on Rio, she is learning that she can’t control everything—she is learning to trust God and lean on her friends and family whether she performs to her usual standards or not.
Inside her brightly colored goggles is a tiny, thin inscription: “With Strength and Dignity.” These four words serve to remind Missy that there is life beyond the pool, and that her value is not dependent upon her performance as an athlete.
“It’s easy to win ‘with strength and dignity,’ you know; it’s easy to be successful ‘with strength and dignity,’” she says. “It’s hard to be disappointed ‘with strength and dignity.’ It’s hard to lose ‘with strength and dignity.’”
Missy is learning to live out her identity in Christ and behave in a consistent manner, regardless of her finish in a race. She can see herself not only as an elite athlete, but as a cherished child of God.
“I get to do what I love right now, but one day I’m not going to be swimming anymore,” she says. “One day I’m going to be done. I’m going to be retired, and sport is no longer going to be as big a part of my life as it is right now, and I want to have something to go off. I want to also make sure that I’m developed in all these other aspects of my life so that I can continue making a difference and I can continue living out my life the way I think God wants me to.”
Questions: Do you respond “with strength and dignity” when things don’t go your way? How can you grow and believe that your worth is not based on your performance?
Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for the opportunities You’ve given me to use the talents with which You’ve gifted me. Help me to see myself the way You do — imperfect, but perfectly loved in Christ. I want to respond “with strength and dignity” when things don’t go my way, and trust that You are in control of my future.
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