Monday, August 20, 2012

When Iron Sharpens Iron

When London closed the Olympic games, one of the things that struck me the most was that no one athlete was able to get the gold by themselves.  Everyone of them had a coach, a mentor and/or a parent who believed in them, disciplined them, coached them and sharpened them.

When Michael Phelps, a teenager,  started splashing the girls at the end of a particularly tough training session, his coach Bob Bowman tried to correct him. Bowman told Phelps, 'you should be very tired, that's the hardest practice you've ever done,'" the coach recalled. "I'll never forget. He looked me straight in the eye and said 'I don't get tired.' So I made that my life goal, to see if I could accomplish that."

Twenty-two Olympic medals later - including 18 golds - the greatest Olympian finally retired from competitive swimming at London Olympics. Much more than raw energy drove the boy from Baltimore through race after lung-bursting race.

To understand Michael Phelps, you also have to talk about his coach, Bowman, who with a psychology degree trained him, knew exactly when and how to rile him, and drove Phelps almost to the point of rebellion and quitting.

Bowman, 47, is quietly spoken, white haired and bespectacled. He has none of the air of the poolside bully. But that's one of the roles he played.

"I've always tried to find ways to give him adversity in either meets or practice and have him overcome it," Bowman has said.

"The higher the level of pressure, the better Michael performs. As expectations rise, he becomes more relaxed ... That's what makes him the greatest."

This relationship reminds me of a scripture from Proverbs. Proverbs 27:17 As iron sharpens iron,  so one man sharpens another.  Bowman would not make practices easy. Once, he loosened Phelps googles so they could get water in them and train him how to win even in adversity.  In turn when Phelps ran a race in the Beijing games, his goggles did fill with water, and he won by learning to swim basically blind because of Bowman’s discipline.   

In your growth in Christ, you will have people come into your life to make things hard - to sometimes ask the hard question.  To keep accountability in your life.  Some on purpose to pull out the best of you to get you to win this race called life.  Don’t get upset. Don’t get mad.  Learn to endure the discipline because discipline is what make an extraordinary disciple.