Michael Phelps. The greatest swimmer that ever was. (To mangle a quote from one of my favorite movies, The Natural) The most decorated Olympic athlete ever. (18 gold medals and 22 total) A man with so much: so much potential and so much waste. Tragic.
There was an interesting article in Sunday's New York Times Sports section about Michael Phelps. He is on a comeback journey.
In April when my husband and I went to Washington D.C. we also visited the Portrait Gallery. It has great artwork but is not nearly as crowded as the National Galleries. Plus it is in the old patent office building which my husband likes.
There was an exhibit on portraits of various famous individuals- some from entertainment, some from politics, others from sport. For each subject they gave a brief explanation about the person, his/her accomplishments and life. For Michael Phelps, all the swimming accomplishments were overshadowed by his poor decisions resulting in DUI arrests. To have all his athletic accomplishments and then to be reduced to one's poor decisions is tragic.
As his coach told him, " Michael, you have all the money that anybody your age could ever want or need; you have a profound influence in the world; you have free time- and you're the most miserable person I know."
Part of The New York Times article is describing his comeback and how is on a path to wholeness. I truly hope that is the case.
His situation is similar to so many others. Sure, everything about him is larger than life than most- most people will never achieve the world recognition or fame or wealth, yet the human condition is still the same: we all desire a sense of purpose and a sense that there is something bigger than ourselves and our accomplishments. As Augustine of Hippo says, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”
In finding God we find a life bigger than ourselves. We discover that life is not all about us, not all about our accomplishments and not all about our things. We find that by humbling ourselves and by serving our fellow humankind we can accomplish far greater things than being the greatest that ever was.
What about you? You might not be in Michael Phelps league, but you might feel that you are on a track to destruction. Or that you don't need anyone else's help or support. Or that you have everything that you could possibly want or desire yet you still feel empty. Do you have a sense of purpose with what you are doing and how you are living your life? Do you feel that your life is tragic? If so, have you ever considered looking beyond yourself? I would suggest that you look to the One who was, is and will always be the greatest- period.