In the wake of yesterday’s stunning shunning of America’s Olympic women’s gymnastic team by its world-acclaimed star, Simone Biles, I, like everyone else watching the drama unfold, am still reeling.
Some are calling her brave for stepping down to let the team have a chance to win something (although not likely a gold medal as they had anticipated with Simone leading the pack) in light of her winning the preliminaries but making some uncharacteristic mistakes because of “just not feeling right.” (Wouldn’t it be something to have everyone gasp in shock when you actually make a mistake?)
Others say she caved to the enormous nervousness of Olympic competition and bowed out so she wouldn’t embarrass herself by not upholding her usual superhero-high standards of performance as the generally recognized G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time) of her sport. Yes, she embraced this title, even appeared with a live goat in a commercial and had a goat emblem embroidered on her gymnastic clothing.
Nothing like putting a little extra pressure on yourself, is there?
So what do you think, my friend? Was Simone courageously deserting her team for their own good? Or was she doing the opposite to spare herself embarrassment during an “off” day?
I feel the need to study the behavior of a truly courageous woman. Someone who was brave to the point of putting her ALL on the line to save her teammates (fellow Jews in this case) from annihilation. How about grabbing your Bible and following along with this excerpt from my book, More Beauty, Less Beast, about Queen Esther?
Old Testament Esther was a woman whose station in life was totally based on appearance. She really did get her job because she looked like a supermodel. And to remain queen (and even retain her head on her shoulders), she had to keep her lusty husband-king satiated with eye candy. Can you imagine the pressure of looking drop-dead gorgeous every moment of the day?
But Esther didn’t allow the trappings of beauty to hold her captive. She learned to use beauty – while not abusing it – to accomplish God’s purposes. Let’s look at a few transcendent points from Esther’s story which we can apply to our own lives today.
- Purity is important (Esther 2:2). Esther, although considered one of the most beautiful women in the kingdom, was a virgin. This was no accident. She valued her chastity and took virtue seriously. She saved herself for the right man at the right time in God’s eyes.
- Background doesn’t matter (Esther 2:5-7). Esther was an orphaned descendant of slaves. God doesn’t need pedigreed people to accomplish His purposes. “He raises the poor from the dust … he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor” (1 Sam 2:8 NIV).
- We live for “such a time as this” (Esther 4:14 NIV). All the days of our lives are preparation for a specific work God intends for us. That incredible, fulfilling moment when His glory is revealed in us. Esther was made queen for one purpose: not to glorify herself, but to save her people.
- Seek prayer and support from others (Esther 4:15-16). She knew she couldn’t do it alone, so Esther asked her cousin to have all the Jews in the city pray for her to have the courage to lay her life on the line, approach the king, and expose the liar threatening her people.
- Courage means doing it afraid (Esther 4:15-16). We may not be brave before our trial, but God will enable us to take that crucial step when we need it most. He specializes in holding our quivering, sweaty hands and walking with us through our worst fears.
- Trust is believing there’s always a tomorrow; that if you follow God’s plan, everything’s gonna be all right. The worst that can happen is that you close your eyes on earth and wake up in heaven. “I’ll go to the king, even though it’s forbidden. If I die, I die” (Esther 4:16 MSG).
- Brains are never overrated (Esther 5:1-5). Our girl hatched a clever plan, using all the tools available to her. Femininity and craftiness are gifts from God, tied with a lace bow. Whether we open them or not is up to us.
- Our downtimes are God’s working-behind-the-scenes times (Esther 5:7-8). Esther obeyed the risky idea God put in her head to wait, to be patient, to request a second banquet in which to spill the beans. This ploy not only enticed and beguiled the king, but it paved the way for Esther’s ultimate victory. The extra waiting time not only made Esther’s enemy, Haman, work up a frothy furor and build the gallows that eventually became his own demise, but made the king’s sleepless night, during which he wondered what Esther was up to, result in even more humiliation for Haman (Esther 6 and 7).
- Patience allows the stew to thicken (Esther 7:1-6). Esther waited until her man was fed, wined, and feeling frisky before springing her news. Full tummies pave the way for gratitude and generosity.
- Gossip can ruin everything (Esther 7:3-6). Esther wisely said nothing behind her enemy’s back until she was ready to say it to his face.
- We find “light and gladness and joy and honor” (Esther 8:16 NASB) only in the center of God’s will. Nowhere else. Nowhere else.
So what do you think now, dearest BFF? What constitutes true courage in the face of fear and adversity? What makes the difference between being a G.O.A.T. like Esther and just a plain old goat?
I think it’s important, as Christ-followers, that whatever opinion we personally derive about Simone’s – or anyone else’s – behavior, that we remember no one is perfect, regardless of how many near-perfect scores she may achieve. Grace is always in order. And forgiveness too.
And the day that you and I can achieve a back handspring on a beam the width of a cell phone is the day we can truly begin to understand a gymnast’s pressure.
Go Team USA!