The Olympic Promised Land
Had God not preserved me already? I broke my neck in warm-ups for an insignificant competition, when I fell from the horizontal bar and landed awkwardly on my back and shoulders, loading pressure on my cervical spine. At first, it was not painful. It felt as though a hot water balloon had burst within my neck. I checked to make sure I could move my extremities, then I leapt back on the horizontal bar. I went on to tumble on the floor exercise, continuing my warm-up. The competition started, and I am one of few people who can claim to have competed with a broken neck. I only withdrew as the pain began to mount, and two more days passed before I walked into the Stanford Hospital.
I could have been paralyzed for the remainder of my natural life. I am grateful that I was spared this fate, and grateful that God found me through gymnastics and through suffering.
I regret neither my gymnastics career nor the way in which it ended. To regret gymnastics would be to regret the hand of God in my life, to regret how God formed and used me. And to regret the suffering I have endured would be to regret one of the greatest instruments God has used for that purpose, a crucible God has used to refine and reform me.
Gymnastics was my school of faith, and the pain with which it left me is my hidden companion, my secret with God, a constant reminder of the one thing I must never forget: that I need God and nothing else. Thank God, thank God that I was not allowed to waste my life buying sweets.
The Olympics, it turns out, was never the Promised Land. I found the Promised Land in that hospital room, and God used gymnastics to bring me there.
For similar articles, including interviews of Samantha Peszek and Dominique Moceanu, please see our series on Gymnastics, Faith and Olympic Glory.
Dr. Timothy Dalrymple is the Associate Director of Content at Patheos, and writes weekly on faith, politics, and culture for Patheos' Evangelical Portal. Follow him at his blog, Philosophical Fragments, on Facebook or on Twitter.