At the 2019 World Championships in Germany this month, Simone Biles broke a world record and became the most decorated gymnast in history. But the balance beam isn’t the only place where Biles shows immaculate grace, poise and dedication.
"I want to become an athlete of influence!"
Many lessons can be drawn from her performance both in and outside of the arena, but two in particular stand out to me.
Blaze a trail
First and foremost: Dare to be a trailblazer, especially when it’s easier not to be. Biles has quite the impressive track record in terms of her medal count, but what is more impressive is the number of skills that have been named after her — two for floor, one on vault and one on the beam. In order to have a skill named after you in gymnastics, you need to be the first person to perform that skill — without falling — at a World Championship, Olympics or Youth Olympics competition.
Because of this, along with her medal count and near-perfect consistency, Biles has been referred to as the greatest gymnast of all time. It would be easy to rest on her laurels, but instead, she dares to push the envelope and do even more.
Regarding the news of Biles having four new skills named after her, I’m reminded of Deuteronomy 31:6, which says, “Be strong and courageous, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you.” And I think that is the underlying principle of what it means as a Christian to be a trailblazer. Don’t worry; you don’t have to perform new and insane skills to be a trailblazer, but simply having the courage to start something new is truly what makes a trailblazer.
For example, you can share your faith with a teammate who doesn't have a relationship with Jesus yet or start a Bible Study on your team. Your skill extends beyond being an athlete, and you should boldly and courageously dare to be a trailblazer for the glory of God.
It’s hard to deny that Biles is competing on a different level than her fellow gymnasts, but still she pushes herself to new heights. None of this would be possible without the self-discipline to be the best version of herself that she can be.
A lot of gymnastics — especially when attempting a skill for the first time — is working past your fear and trusting your practice, yourself and your coaches that you’re ready to go for it. She’s embodying what Paul says in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline.”
That same can be said for taking those steps to be a trailblazer for Christ on your own team. Do not be afraid to push the boundaries of your comfort zone. Approach the conversation about God with love. Be self-disciplined in the practice of your faith, leading by example in what it means to be a Christian.
Leave a lasting legacy
The second lesson to pull from Simone Biles takes the first lesson a step further: you should work to leave a legacy behind, not for the glory of man, but the glory of God. Sure, she’s making her mark on the sport of gymnastics, but she doesn’t stop there.
Biles is consistently promoting change within USA Gymnastics and the US Olympic & Paralympic Committee, challenging outdated ideologies and regulations (or lack thereof) that are potentially harmful to athletes on the grand stage and beyond. This effort to leave a legacy outside of her pure talent and skill for gymnastics is admirable and should be followed by athletes at all levels.
Although we don’t know her specific motivations to push for positive change, our motivation should be the Lord. In Colossians 3:23 we’re taught that “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord.” This means that you should glorify God not only with your effort and skill in your sport, but also on a grander scale.
Furthermore, it can be easy to get caught up in worldly praise. In fact, working for the glory of God and not for man has been a struggle as old as time.
In John 12: 42-43, we’re shown that although many religious authorities at the time of Christ believed in Him, they did not confess it out of fear of the Pharisees, “for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.” Ultimately, let your motivation to be a trailblazer and to leave a legacy be for the glory of God, as your humility is glorifying to Him.
Both of those lessons are to say that you should wholeheartedly and enthusiastically use the gifts God gave you — do not take them for granted, for “each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:10)