The winter Olympics are in full swing, and one of the most notable names on Team USA is snowboarder Chloe Kim. When asked about the pressure placed upon athletes competing in the games, the 17-year-old simply stated, “I don’t really think about it as pressure. Pressure is a byproduct of expectations, and expectations mean that people believe in you.” Only a few days later, Kim would go on to win the gold medal in the snowboard halfpipe, but not before tweeting “Wish I finished my breakfast sandwich but my stubborn self decided not to and now I’m getting hangry.”
As someone whose sole Olympic ambition is to be a spectator (this applies to any organized sport if we’re being honest), I cannot begin to fathom how a person remains that calm when so much is at stake. With the entire world watching, how does one not crack under all that pressure? Amid my bystander speculation and “couch coaching” during this time of year, there is one event in which I actually do participate… and stress over. Let’s just put it this way, if Lent were an Olympic sport, I would not place myself on the winner’s podium because I almost always fail to keep my commitment.
If your shelves are anything like mine, they are filled with unread books and empty journals: evidence of promised daily devotionals unfulfilled year after year. Even “successful” Lenten seasons leave me unchanged and uninspired—giving up soda for God just didn’t do the trick. I end up asking the same question: why is keeping a Lenten sacrifice so difficult for me?
Unsurprisingly, it probably has to do with my mindset. Unlike the Olympics, I tend to view Lent not as a team effort but a solo endeavor: this is my opportunity, my burden, my choice. It is up to me to stay disciplined and follow through with my oath. But the truth is, I don’t have to go it alone. The pressure is not entirely on me.
In John 14:26, Jesus describes this relief to his disciples: “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” Advocate is defined as “one who supports or promotes.” Lent is not about us testing our self-discipline without relying on anyone or anything else. It’s about turning to the people who believe in you and praying for the Holy Spirit to take the lead.
Chloe Kim’s father, Jong Jin Kim, made headlines alongside his remarkable daughter because of the simple, homemade sign he waved during her event. Wrinkled during the plane ride from California, his modestly handwritten “Go Chloe!” poster struck a chord with everyone who’s ever felt encouraged by a loved one.
That’s how our God loves us. The Holy Spirit fills each and every one of us with support and cheers us on no matter what the challenge. Because at the end of these 40 days, we all get to step atop the podium and celebrate the resurrection of our champion, Jesus Christ.