“For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” — Psalm 103:14
Professional athletes are valued because they excel in one area of their lives. It may be throwing, catching, tackling or playmaking. In the case of the surf athletes I work amongst, it’s catching and riding waves well enough to receive a high score. The surfer who can partner with and ride the two highest-scoring waves wins the heat, and hopefully the event.
An athlete’s life is defined and valued by what they do. If they do this one thing well, often sponsorship, prize money, accolades and titles follow. It’s a discipline of doing. This life of works or activities and achievement to garner worth and value is not just contained in the realm of professional sports. It is, however, amplified there. Once an athlete can no longer do what they have derived achievement from, they are dropped by sponsors and fall out of the highest echelons of the sport. They retire or are washed up.
The rise of athletes is often well documented, but the fall not so much — unless it’s dramatic, marked by indiscretions and failings. These failings are often overshadowed by athletic success. It is here, into the minefield of worth and value — rising and falling careers — that I as the chaplain come and quietly speak of value derived from being rather than doing.
I love the verse above because it tells us that God remembers that we are dust. He alone gathered up the dust of the earth and formed the first man. He gave him a name, a purpose, community and communion with himself and his companion. This means value was derived from who created him, not from what he (the man) created or accomplished.
It is this constant, inescapable fact that I whisper, quietly and consistently, to the athletes: “The catching and riding of waves does not define you, it’s just something you do. You are valued, loved and precious because of who you are — a child of God, His creation, made in His image.”
Most of the people in athletes’ lives are there to invest in their sporting success. I’m not. Sure I celebrate and commiserate with them, empathising with their highs and lows. However, I’m invested in who they are and who they can become as a whole person: body, mind and spirit. How does this person reflect the nature of the One who created them and how does the value and sense of purpose derived from that grow in their lives?
Careers rise and fall, winners are crowned each year, contests are won and lost. But there is only one you — the you made in God’s image, made to reflect something unique of His character.
If you search for value in what you do, you are drawing from an empty well. If you find value in the One who created you, then the well is replaced by a constant stream of living water that refreshes your soul.
— Andrew Carruthers, Australian World Longboard Tour chaplain