Since the 2022 Winter Paralympics have just finished up, I thought this would be a great time to share a bit about my own Paralympic experience in Tokyo. For those of you who aren’t familiar with my little story, I swim for Team Canada and this past summer God fulfilled a dream that has taken 13 years and many miles of going back and forth in the pool to accomplish! But hey, we made it! Although, what most of the world and social media doesn’t know, was that going to Tokyo and being at the Paralympics was at times really awful. Yup, you read that correctly.
You’d think that fulfilling a life long dream would go as smooth as the peanut butter I put on my toast this morning. You’d assume that if God was gifting you with a reward like this, that he’d make sure there was 100% no drama and everything would be exactly how you dreamed it would be…yeah, not so much. A girl can dream and I thought this dream was pretty valid. Have you ever wanted a dream to go smoothly?
There were some days in the athlete’s village where the only thing that got me through the day, was reminding myself that I was currently sitting in a gift. I was literally standing in the middle of an answered prayer, but why was it nothing like I imagined? Why did it feel so overwhelming and heavy? Now don’t get me wrong, competing for Canada at that level was one of the most incredible experiences of my life! I loved every second of my race, walking out to the blocks, soaking it all in, feeling completely at peace and no pressure to perform. Knowing that I wasn’t there to perform for the world but there because God takes pleasure in watching me swim, that hits different.
That one moment was everything and more. I became a Paralympian on August 28th, 2021, the day God intended.
But other than that, the whole experience was super difficult. Emotions where high, performances and medals were top priority. Have you noticed how people lose themselves when they are put in a high stress environment? My teammates who I thought had my back, just didn’t. Everyone was on edge, emotions were driving peoples assumptions, lack of leadership made for a chaotic atmosphere and to top it all off, being thousands of miles away from your friends and family was harder than I thought.
I left Tokyo feeling like my gift came with a price. And in all honesty, I felt like God made me pay for it myself.
Yes, I was given what I always wanted, but in the theme of full transparency, all the work I had done felt like it should have produced a more comfortable reward. If you’ve ever felt this way about something that you’ve worked for, a dream that you’ve had, or an opportunity that you earned, I am right there with you. It’s not a fun place to be in yet in all honesty it’s a human place. But the good news is that I believe God can handle getting us out of it!
My friends, does life ever go exactly how we’d like it to? (Let me know if it has for you because I’d love to meet you one day and find out your secret!) Although for now I think we can agree that most often life does not go as we’d like. For example, relationships face their reality checks when the person you’re with shows you that even they are human too. Even the most handsome boy in school isn’t perfect. Our jobs seem great on paper, but good grief if Karen from accounting sends me one more email! Even dreams don’t always play out in the way we thought they would or in our ideal time frame for that matter (anyone getting Joseph vibes?). We dream of having kids, and one day they make decisions that we definitely told God we didn’t want them to make. We commit to a company and we know the work we’ve done is worth a raise, but that raise and recognition never comes. The bottom line is that sometimes what we work for doesn’t end up how we thought it would.
In that case, if we’re ever going to figure out how to make it through our time on earth, let alone make it through our time well, I believe we need to find an answer to one simple question:
What are you working for?
It’s no question that human beings have always worked. In fact, the act of working and the concept of work itself is seen in the beginning of the Bible. Genesis 2:15 says, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” Working is biblical, and God has designed us with an ability to work.
Writer Annie Dillard famously said, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” In fact, a simple google search will tell you that the average person spends about 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime — we are no strangers to work. John Mark Comer raised an interesting point in his book, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, saying that to be seen as successful in todays world, is to be busy. If you are constantly working then you are living your life well, or at least that’s what we have started to think. If this is the case, what we are working for should matter, shouldn’t it? If we are to spend 90,000 hours of life at work, then whatever we are working for should add up to something. But what if it doesn’t? What happens when we have worked for something and it leaves us exhausted with unmet expectations? What happens when we get what we wanted, but there’s still an emptiness that’s lingering? What happens when the answered prayer comes with a little more heaviness than we anticipated?
If this is the case, then it is becoming more important than ever to answer the question. 1 Corinthians 15:58 is the framework for us to find this answer: “So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.”
Now, the word immovable can be defined as something that’s not changed in purpose; unshaken; firm. To be immovable is to be rooted in the purpose of God, to be strong in who He says He is, and to stand firm when life throws its best punches at you. To be immovable in your work is to be unwavering in the knowledge that your work, whatever it may be, is for the glory of God and God alone. We partake in the Kingdom of God by doing the work that He has assigned for each of us, and that work (and level of worldly success) is going to be different for everyone.
Now the next part of the verse, “Always work enthusiastically for the Lord”, is a little tougher. You might be saying to yourself, “Doesn’t God know that my work isn’t always easy? Has he not seen the stress I’m under?” Now these are valid feelings and God definitely sees you and understands what you’re going through, but what this verse is telling us is not that we should work enthusiastically for the title, the dream, the money, the fame etc., but that we are to work enthusiastically for the Lord.
Your work is the means by which you get to serve God. We are called to work enthusiastically for the Lord because He is the one who created us to work for him in the first place! Remember Genesis 2:15? God has placed us in our unique spheres of influence to work for him, not for the things of the earth. Yes, there are many things we will achieve while we work and likewise, many dreams will be accomplished while we commit to working for them. But what I want to remind us of today, is that if we are working for anything other than God, as good as the gift might be, it will never be enough.
Then lastly, why is it okay to work enthusiastically for the Lord? Because “Nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.” I realized that I was in Tokyo for something greater than my own comfort and personal achievements. God had given me a dream, and after years of work he was kind enough to make it happen. He will never waste what He ordained for purpose.
When you choose to work for the Lord, nothing you do will ever be useless. When your dreams aren’t met, or when they turn out a little different than expected, by the power of the Holy Spirit, you can choose to be immovable and stand firm, because your work is not only for you, but instead for the glory of God. When we work enthusiastically for the Lord, I have a feeling that we will begin to see our dreams as a means to draw closer to God, and not as a way to gain the world.
My name is Dee, I’m a born and raised Canadian, and I swim for Team Canada! I recently competed at the Tokyo 2021 Paralympic Games, and I have a passion for encouraging people to embrace their unique differences. I’ve got a youtube channel called This Little Light, and you can usually find me drinking an iced coffee and making short jokes. We’ve all got a unique light inside of us to shine, and I think it would be fun to shine them together!