During this year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, my son emailed to me a web link to an interesting documentary. It was a fifteen minute YouTube video about Michael Phelps and how he was able to rekindle his gold medal winning form. I found it amazing that his latest trip down the yellow (more like gold) brick road was inspired by an unlikely chaperon.
Having started down the road to perdition amid a rapid fall from grace following the London Olympics, Phelps enrolled in an intensive rehab program. It turns out that Phelps had forged an improbable friendship a number of years ago with the notorious linebacker, Ray Lewis of the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens. As Phelps was preparing to leave, Lewis recommended that he read The Purpose Driven Life written by pastor Rick Warren. Within the YouTube interviews, both Lewis and Phelps attributed their success in straightening out their lives to reading and applying what they learned from Warren’s book.
I remembered having received a copy of the same book many years ago as a birthday gift from my wife. I had started to read the book in 2003 but quickly lost interest a number of pages into my first pass. I’m certain that I was not in the right place, spiritually or emotionally from which I could align with the tome’s tenets. Also, at the time this book was all the rage and it seemed that everyone was touting its message. I must admit that I have a healthy distrust of following the mob. As a result, the book gathered dust and was all but forgotten. Newly inspired by Phelps’s testimony, I searched for my copy and decided to give it another chance while away on vacation with my family. Now, I am clearly in a different place to receive Warren’s teaching, which is deeply rooted in Christian spirituality.
Luckily, we all have different tolerances to pain. Some people, like Michael Phelps, need to sink to a deep emotional bottom in order to significantly alter the direction of their life. Dealing with the public humiliation and staring down the prospect of losing what matters most to them is motivation to make radical changes in their lives. Other individuals sense that something needs to fundamentally change inside them long before a painful, public train wreck occurs. Personally, the message of the book has me again searching to reestablish some important personal disciplines that have grown lax for me this past year. I sense that some new disciplines are about to emerge for me as well. It is an interesting sensation to be forty-nine years old and to know that I might be on the verge of a significant personal breakthrough. Historically, my breakthroughs have always involved a break with beliefs or behaviors that limited me in harmful ways.
It’s still very early in my reading of The Purpose Driven Life, as I have read only lessons one through ten out of a total of forty. The message that has most resonated with me has been his encouragement that individuals stop trying to unilaterally deliver positive outcomes in their lives. He speaks of the need to surrender, even though each of us has a natural resistance to surrendering. He admits that surrender has acquired a negative connotation and is akin to submitting, giving up or quitting. The book does a great job of debunking the commonly held belief that surrender equates to losing.
I have a growing sense that my more consistent surrender to the Hand That Writes All will require that I abandon the tight grip that I have maintained on those things and objectives that have set me on the path of most resistance. This will not be an easy transition for me, as I am by nature an activator who is familiar with hunting the things that draw my attention. I have to trust that my resignation and faithfulness will be rewarded with a renewed experience of lighthearted travel along a path of least resistance.
Where are you in your own spiritual life? When your stomach growls, you eat. How can you more authentically tend to the hunger that comes from the deepest parts within you?
Thomas “TD” Dierker
Live like you’re dying…. cause you are!