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From regret to redemption

Jon Hauser, columnist.

Michael Phelps swam in the 2000 Summer Olympics at the age of 15, making him the youngest male to make an Olympic swim team in 68 years. After swimming in the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics, he held the record for winning the most Olympic medals ever with a total of 22 medals, 18 of them gold! Phelps was, clearly, the greatest swimmer of all-time.

After the 2012 Olympic Games, during an interview on the Today show, Phelps announced he was retiring; stating "I'm done. I'm ready to move on." After 16 years of intense training, swimming was more of a burden than a joy. Phelps had untold fame and unimagined fortune, but no real peace or plan. He knew what he wanted to retire from, but didn't know what he wanted to retire to.

Soon after retirement, Phelps' life spun totally out of control. For 16 years he had a single-focused purpose, but now he felt empty, disconnected and unfocused. He turned to drugs and alcohol to numb his pain. In September of 2014, Phelps hit bottom. After months of estranged relationships, apathy towards life and substance abuse, Phelps was arrested for his second DUI.

He stopped eating. He couldn't sleep. He holed up in his home in Baltimore and contemplated suicide. He later admitted: "I had no self-esteem. No self-worth. I thought the world would be better off without me. I figured that was the best thing to do—just end my life."

Fortunately, Phelps' friends and family members convinced him to check into a rehab facility. As Phelps headed into rehab, a friend handed him the book "Purpose Driven Life" by Pastor Rick Warren. God used that book to change his life.

He told ESPN magazine that the book "turned me into believing there is a power greater than myself and there is a purpose for me on this planet." As bad as hitting rock bottom was, Phelps said it changed everything for him. A great regret became the turning point in his life. He recognized his regret, released it to God, and journeyed with God on a path of redemption. It's true; with the help of God it is never too soon or too late to start over.

After this spiritual and life awakening, Phelps reconnected with his estranged father, got engaged to his long-time girlfriend, celebrated the birth of his son and found a new sense of purpose and passion for maximizing his God-given talent.

Phelps decided to train for and swim in the 2016 Olympics. He was spectacular in the pool, once again, winning 5 gold medals and 1 silver. If you watched those games, the greatest part of his performance was the joy seen in Phelps' relationships with his coach, his mom, his fiancé and his baby son. As soon as he would receive his medal, he would rush over to his fiancé and son to share the moment with them. Phelps had a peace and joy not seen in previous Olympic games.

Just like Michael Phelps, our story does not need to end with a chapter of regret. God has a deep desire to take your story of regret and turn it into a story of redemption. This is God's specialty. God bless you. See you next Sunday!