I saw something yesterday that I have not seen in a long time.  Simone Biles is an American gymnast competing in the Olympic games.  She is considered the greatest women’s gymnast ever.  Her fearlessness and amazing athleticism has made her untouchable in competitions.  She has created several new moves that other gymnast would never try.  Yet, during these Olympics she had to sit out the team and then the individual competitions.  Being humble and totally honest she admitted that it was not because of a physical injury but that she was struggling mentally.  There were several factors that led to this struggle.  The Olympics were postponed for a year due to Covid.  That meant one more year of wear and tear on her body.  This led to some falters in her routines and this led doubt to replace fearlessness.  In her sport, doubt can bring catastrophic injury.  No fans allowed in the stands, again due to Covid, led to eerie quietness and reminders of the past year.  No family support was allowed at the games.  Some seemingly biased judging led to strife.  Simone had chosen to compete in these games to keep the light on an ongoing investigation into abuse by former coaches.  She did not want the Olympic Committee to sweep the allegations under the rug.  Being the greatest ever, she had tons of pressure added to her shoulders to carry the team to, not only win, but to win big.  She was leading all competitors at the time she bowed out but because here scores were not perfect, it led to more pressure.  All of these reasons, and more that we are probably not aware of, led to Simone having to sit out the competition.
What happened next was pleasantly surprising to me.  Of course, this is a huge story.  The media jumped right on it.  In all that I read, which I admit was limited, I did not hear one word of criticism.  I did not hear the words normally associated with an event like this.  What was written and said by the media were words of encouragement.  Words like brave and humble were used, rather than words like choke or collapse.  There were words of concern and empathy.  The media, that I read and watched, even began to wonder if they placed too much pressure on these athletes.  Especially athletes who were labeled as “goats”...the greatest of all time.  It was so encouraging to experience the media being compassionate, supportive, and concerned for the well being of the person rather than evaluating them simply as an athlete.  One thing I also noticed, positive peer pressure.  Since the first ones to speak up did so with such compassion and empathy, those who would have normally been negative were forced to bite their tongues and speak to the humanity of the issue.  Nice to see that kind of peer pressure.
It also made me wonder.  How did so many people, so quickly, relate to Simone?  Are there a good number of people out there who are also struggling?  How many of us have found the last year and a half, and the possibility of more Covid pressure, just a little more than we can handle.  Our jobs and lives are not lived out in front of the world.  Our jobs do not require us to flip on a four inch beam.  But how many of us are finding that we must force ourselves out of bed each morning?  How many of us are struggling to keep our fears in check?  How many of us are so angry that we are afraid we are going to blow up at someone at the wrong time?  Maybe we were so quick to empathize with Simone Biles because we are struggling right along with her?  
I found myself praying for Simone.  Praying that this new vulnerability in her life would drive her to find rest in Jesus.  That those who are struggling with her would fix their eyes on Jesus.  That, like Peter when he walked on water, they would take their eyes off the storm and start telling the storm how big their God is.  I pray that those struggling would run to their church family.  That they would serve others.  That they would find someone to talk with.  That those talks would be about getting out of their own heads and serving the needs of others.  That those thoughts of doubt, fear, or anger would be driven out by thoughts of peace, love, and seeing others.  Seek Jesus.  Seek help.  Know peace.  Pray for Simone.

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