If you were like me, you watched the men’s 4x100 freestyle relay on the edge of your seat screaming for the U.S. swimmers. With the win Michael Phelps now has 19 gold medals in his fifth Olympics. An unbelievable accomplishment may be an understatement. And yet what may be even more incredible is his story, which he is telling freely, from the highs of winning gold medals to the depths of wanting to commit suicide and back again to a restored life of purpose.
After his second DUI, Phelps was at the lowest point of his life, ready to end it all. “He had no idea what to do with the rest of his life,” said his longtime coach, Bob Bowman. “It made me feel terrible. I remember one day I said: ‘Michael, you have all the money that anybody your age could ever want or need; you have a profound influence in the world; you have free time — and you’re the most miserable person I know. What’s up with that?’ ”
A lot of his story revolves around his strained relationship with his father who divorced and left the family when Michael was nine. But what Michael is telling but often overlooked is the catalyst for the change.
Michael says that when he was at the bottom, Ray Lewis, a strong Christian and former NFL great, encouraged Michael to not give up and recommended the book, The Purpose Driven Life. The book gave Phelps new direction, new hope and a new purpose in life. The result is a new life, a reconciliation with his father and a story of redemption that he can tell to help others change their life. If you haven't watched the full ESPN story, it is worth your time. The Lewis part starts around the 7 minute mark.
Watch the story here.
I’m wondering where Phelps would be without that encouragement from Ray Lewis. I think about Esther and the words of Mordecai, “for such a time as this”. For Lewis, his act of obedience to help lift up Phelps in a time of great need was crucial.
Where has God placed you in this moment? For whom can you be a catalyst for change? Don’t miss the opportunity to encourage someone today to live a life of purpose in Christ Jesus. It may be the difference between life and death.