Cover Feature

Risk—Taker David Wise Dares to Find What's Really True

A skier who zoomed down slopes and broke bones on his way to Olympic gold finds faith to be the real dare.

David Wise, Olympic gold medalist, Sochi 2014

Before David Wise became an Olympic gold medalist, before he became that famous skier flipping and turning through a halfpipe, he was a youngster looking for an adventure.

Growing up, Wise was a little kid zooming down steep slopes, breaking expensive skies on jumps. To his fretting parents' concern, he was a risk taker.

“I'm naturally a risk taker at heart,” Wise said. “God made me that way for whatever reason.”

His risk-taking nature—he's done bungee jumping and skydiving—is a preoccupation. He's a thrill seeker at heart.

“I've always had this obsession, taking things that scare me and overcoming them,” Wise said. “I realized that when I was young and I did something that scared me I could reach a point where it no longer scared me. I liked that.”

That's been a theme his entire life. Overcoming scary challenges.

“But now that I am a little bit older, more mature and have kids to think about, I'm not quite as reckless as I used to be,” said Wise, a father of two young children. “Now I'm more of a calculated risk taker.”

His risk-taking nature has come with a price.

“I've spent a considerable time with injuries,” Wise said.

There's been numerous knee surgeries. A few broken bones.

“But I feel like I've got a pretty good guardian angel who is on my team,” Wise said. “I've gone through a lot of things that maybe would have hurt me that didn't. For whatever reason, God put me in this place and this is his plan.”

And that's Wise's insight. Everyone has a talent. Everyone has a God-given skill. One of Wise's skills is racing down snowy slopes at crazy speeds. Winning a gold medal in the 2014 Winter Olympics in the halfpipe in Russia and winning three straight X Games gold medals last year, Wise's trophy case is full. And, he points out, it's all in God's plan.

Wise's rise to Olympic fame came in part because he had supportive parents who nurtured him in faith.

“I was fortunate enough to grow up in a Christian home,” Wise said. “But I certainly had a time in my life where I had to go out on my own and make sure that I wanted to be a follower of Christ because I wanted to and not because that was what I was taught at a young age.”

Wise's study of world religions convinced him that Christ was the one and only way.

“Seeing Christianity from my family's perspective and then studying world religion and realizing what a follower of Christ is, that is what I wanted for my own reasons,” Wise said.

David Wise—Sochi 2014

His faith became a personal experience.

“It has to be personal or else it's not real,” Wise said. “That's the most important part. If Christianity were just another world religion it would just be another example of people trying to earn God's favor. The reality is Christ chose us because he wants that relationship with us. Discovering that on my own is when I really, truly felt it was my faith.”

That commitment, that go-to-the-alter confession isn't a one-time commitment. It's a day-to-day walk.

“We either choose to seek or we choose to drown it out with other things,” Wise said.

A Christian's walk is more than a Sunday morning moment.

“I love in Jeremiah where it says if you seek me with all your heart you will find me,” Wise said. “That's my experience. I went through life and I got to the point where I realized I just believed what I was told for a long time. Now I need to discover what it is I truly believe. What's really true.”

Wise has discovered that Christianity is truly a day-to-day experience.

“Some days I've never felt closer to Christ. And the very next day I wake up and I feel like I'm back in the world,” Wise said. “It's interesting how you have to continually choose God, you can't just choose him once. It's not just a one-time thing. Not “okay boom you made the decision. Now you're safe forever.”

It's a process of constantly becoming more like Christ.

Sometimes that Christian walk becomes a list of “don'ts” – don't drink, don't smoke and don't go with girls that do. But there's also the do list – do read the Bible, and do pray.

“The older I get and the more mature I get, I discover how important prayer really is,” Wise said. “It's one thing to seek wisdom, to seek knowledge. It's a whole different thing to seek a relationship with the creator. I think that's where prayer comes in.”

And prayer isn't supposed to be a one-way conversation.

“It's not supposed to be just asking for things,” Wise said. “It's us opening our hearts to him, and opening our mind to what he has in mind. Compared to what we have in mind.”

Because of his gold medals, because of his thrilling skill on the slopes, Wise is famous. But he's careful not to become egocentric. He wants to be Christ centered, not me centered.

David Wise —Sochi 2014

“The reality is everything I have is a gift from God,” Wise said. “I can't take credit for any of it. My whole goal in doing what I do is giving glory to God. It's my act of worship. It's my way of saying thank you for these talents.”

Rather than basking in applause, saying look at what I can do, Wise is careful to say thanks and high five God. His prayer is simple.

“Thank you for this opportunity,” Wise said. “Now, let me serve you well.”

With a series of five Olympic trails coming up and with the X Games and World Cup next up, Wise is busy training. The goal is to stand on the award's platform, doing the best he can do. But he's made an important discovery.

“Life is not about winning,” Wise said.

That's a realization he bumped into being a husband and a dad.

“At the end of the day, they never really care if I've won or lost,” Wise said. “They were certainly there to root me on. They wanted me to win. But once the competition is over I still have to go home. And I still had to change a diaper, and I still had to do what every normal parent does.”

The joys of being a father and a husband trump it all.

“The world tries to convince you that life is about what you do,” Wise said. “Life is about your job and how much success you have. At the end of the day it's not. It's about the relationships you have.”

It's about doing the best you can with what you have.

“And leaving the rest up to God,” Wise said.

Wise enjoys winning. But it's not his sole, win-at-all-cost objective.

“I don't run the world here,” Wise said. “He does.”

Gail Wood lives in Lacey, WA.

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