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The Gospel According to Simone Biles

The Gospel According to Simone Biles

By Sarah Griffith Lund, Chalice Press author

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8)

At the Tokyo Olympic Games, the world witnessed Simone Biles, one of the greatest athletes of all time, defend not the gold medal but her own mental health. Simone is breaking the silence about mental illness and mental health, and she’s doing it while in the global spotlight. This deserves a gold medal.

Anyone who has the courage to break the silence about their personal struggles with mental health challenges deserve a gold medal. For me as a pastor and as a person living in recovery from complex PTSD and whose loved ones live with mental illnesses, I call this being blessed. As Jesus says in the Gospel of Matthew, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). We are blessed when we tell the true story, which has the power to bring healing.

Simone is writing her own story, giving her own testimony. When I stop and really listen to Simone, I hear underneath all the buzz and hype. What I hear is the  gospel truth that her heart longs to be blessed by what she loves. The problem is, this time the Olympics is not a blessing to Simone. “This Olympic Games, I wanted it to be for myself. I came in and felt I was still doing it for other people. So that just hurts my heart that doing what I love has been kind of taken away from me, to please other people.[1]

The Gospel According to Simone testifies to how real emotional pain feels. Emotional and mental pain is physical pain. She didn’t break her leg or twist her ankle. But, as she says, she’s “fighting” with her “own head.” Simone’s testimony comes from a pure heart that longs to experience the full blessings of God’s love embodied in her own life. This is her birthright as a child of God.

Simone’s decision to step aside and withdraw from competing in the Olympics is what mentally healthy people do. People in recovery from mental illness know that taking the right steps, even if it means stepping aside, is the best way to win the fight in our own heads. When we feel unsafe in anyway, we reclaim the power and control to ensure our own safety and wellbeing. This is what flourishing looks like. This is what recovery looks like. This is what a champion looks like.

Blessed are the pure in heart. Blessed is she who makes a way for healing and recovery. Blessed be Simone.

 

[1] "Simone Biles will not compete in all-around final at Tokyo Olympics," USAToday.com, accessed July 28, 2021

Photo: Pixabay

Sarah Griffith Lund is the author of two Chalice Press books on mental health: Blessed Are the Crazy: Breaking the Silence about Mental Illness, Family, and Church (2014) and Blessed Union: Breaking the Silence about Mental Illness and Marriage (2021). 

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