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Son of Olympic Gold Medalists finds his own lane: Seeking peace through God’s perspective

Ryan Denison is the Senior Fellow for Theology at Denison Forum, where he contributes writing and research to many of the ministry’s productions.

He is in the final stages of earning his PhD in church history at BH Carroll Theological Institute after having earned his MDiv at Truett Seminary. Ryan has also taught at BH Carroll and Dallas Baptist University.

He and his wife, Candice, live in East Texas and have two children.

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Sprinter Cameron Burrell takes off from the starting line of a running track
Track and field athlete Cameron Burrell is seen training at the University of Houston in Houston, Texas, USA on 19 November, 2019. // Long Nguyen / Red Bull Content Pool via AP Images

Cameron Burrell won the NCAA championship at 100 meters in 2018. As Matthew Futterman writes, “His best time is 9.93, making him one of the fastest sprinters in the world.”

That’s an impressive accomplishment, and one of which both he and his family are proud.

But when your father, Leroy, is the former world record holder in the 100 meters and an Olympic gold medalist, and your mother, Michelle, was part of the gold medal-winning sprint relay team in the 1992 Olympics, and your godfather, Carl Lewis, is one of the most prolific sprinters in history, it can be understandably hard to feel like your accomplishments measure up.

Cameron can take some solace, though, in knowing that this is the life he chose rather than one that was forced on him.

As Futterman writes, “The Burrells never advertised their athletic accomplishments to their three children. They don’t have a trophy case in their living room in suburban Houston. Their gold medals were stored in a safe deposit box.” It wasn’t until the kids stumbled across some old Team U.S.A. uniforms in the garage that they even knew about their parents’ exploits.

But while he played a variety of sports growing up, sprinting ended up feeling like his calling.

As Leroy described, Cameron “could have done anything he wanted, and he chose to run.” So when he decided to attend the University of Houston, where Cameron’s father and Lewis were both coaches, it set his path on a clear trajectory to the Olympics.

And while Covid pushed those plans back a year, trying to add his name to the family legacy is still Cameron’s dream. What’s perhaps most important, though, is that he’s embraced the dream as his own.

How do you view your life?

It can be simultaneously reassuring and daunting to understand that God has a calling and a plan for your life.

It’s reassuring to know that your life has meaning and that the work you do, when done for the Lord, serves a purpose beyond yourself.

If you can’t take the next step of making that purpose your own, though, seeing within it a sense of God-given identity that is distinct to you—even if it may be in a field or area of life that seems anything but unique—then it can be a struggle to find lasting peace and joy.

Fortunately, the Holy Spirit stands ready to help us take that step if we’ll give him the room to do so.

That requires embracing your sense of calling and seeing wherever he has you in life as an area where he can use you to make a genuine difference for his kingdom.

So ask God to help you see your circumstances as he does and to make you aware of the ways in which he is already at work around you.

After all, seeing our lives through his eyes can be just the perspective we need to find purpose and peace in our present circumstances.

Whose perspective is guiding your life today?  

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