Emeline Liu

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1 Corinthians 9:24-27

I am profoundly not religious, but if you ever wanted the clearest, most succint description of my life’s driving philosophy, I’d have to say that this verse is it.

##1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?

Run in such a way as to get the prize.

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.

No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

(New International Version)

The First Epistle to the Corinthians, otherwise denoted as 1 Corinthians, was written by Paul the Apostle around 52 AD. This first letter, or epistle, was specifically written in response to what Paul felt was rising disorder in the Corinthian church. At that point in time, the Corinthian church was divided and still clinging to pagan beliefs. Paul sought to admonish the Corinthians and guide them back to a purer version of Christianity.

In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Paul was referencing the Olympic Games, which was held every four years in Greece starting in 776 BC. He could safely assume that any reader would understand a sports parable.

As I’ve said before, I’m not really religious. I don’t believe in depriving myself to please God or to somehow swindle my way into a better plot of land in Heaven. I have, however, spent my entire life as an athlete. Most recently, I spend a vast majority of my free time either thinking about or doing Crossfit. There have been a couple articles lately comparing Crossfit to a church - a place where the weak come to be healed, a community that promotes family values and mental wellness, a place where you suffer together and only knit tighter bonds because of the shared experiences.

I have spent my entire life involved in athletics. I grew up as a swimmer on an excessively competitive club team, where I wasted away hours of my life facedown in a pool, interrupted either with lectures that what we were doing wasn’t quite good enough or brief moments of outstanding glory when we would actually do well. Years later, after I quit swimming feeling more burned out than I should have at the ripe age of 13, I walked onto my college’s DIII track and field team. I had had a lackluster high school perfomance, but I was relatively strong and determined. I went on to have an equally mediocre run until my senior year, when I rocketed to 43rd in the nation in the hammer throw during the last four weeks of my athletic career. Okay, it was just DIII, which is not particularly impressive, but I still felt very validated. I had started on the track team as a nobody and left as the second-best hammer thrower in the history of my college.

Every hour I spent in the weightroom, every extra workout I did, every second I spent chastising myself for not being good enough while other people basked in their complacency and self-contentment - that was a specific type of suffering, that was discipline, that was what it took to be better. That was persistent blind faith that my preparation would pay off. That was fervored, steadfast devotion to the gym and to track and field. That was my religion.

I occasionally get the compliment at crossfit that I am very dedicated. I often get the criticism from friends/family/coworkers that I’m obsessive/crazy. Maybe I am obsessive. The only thing I can really be sure of - I know how to discipline my mind and my body. All I can hope is that in the end I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

Works Cited/further reading material

An Introduction to the Pauline Letters

Olympic Spirituality, a sermon from John Piper

When some turn to church, others go to Crossfit