Tracy Hanson shares how her faith began and has been growing steadily over the years.
Crowds roaring with approval. Friends thinking I’m a star athlete. Teachers singing praises about my grades. While growing up, I found my significance in my athletic and academic performances. If I did well, I felt great; if I failed, I felt awful. I put all my efforts into working hard on the basketball court, on the golf course, and in class, thinking that I would be loved if I performed well.
Growing up in rural northern Idaho, I had a good family life and never was in trouble because of drugs or alcohol. Church, however, was not a priority in my family. We were the classic "holiday churchgoers." My only motivation to stay on track and work hard was my drive to excel as an athlete.
After high school, I earned a golf scholarship to San Jose State University, in San Jose, California. I was excited, but scared. Moving to San Jose would take me more than 1000 miles away from home to a "big" city. I had a lot of time to think on the long drive to school.
I remembered reading a book about having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I was nervous about starting this next phase of my life, so as I drove, I began to pray and asked Jesus to come into my life. I told Him that I was far from perfect and needed His forgiveness for my sins. Nothing seemed to happened. I turned my attention back to the radio hoping the rest of the drive would soon be over.
At San Jose State I quickly settled into school. I started to read the Bible every day, but my motivation was short-lived and I didn’t make an effort to learn more about what it means to know Jesus personally. Without any understanding of my own, or people to help me, I went right back into "performing" on the golf course and in the classroom in order to find my worth and significance.
I knew God intellectually, but He was not part of my everyday life. I went through the motions of attending church and bible study. I would tell people I was a Christian, but I would never tell them about my faith.
I had moments of growth when I thought that I was getting to know God and His love. Yet, time after time, I would quickly turn my back on Him and go in my own direction.
Fortunately God never turned His back on me. I have experienced again and again the reality of His promise: "I will not fail you or forsake you." (Joshua 1:5)
I continued to be successful in college. I not only won many golf tournaments but also was viewed as a model student-athlete. I was graduated with honors, and shortly afterward I turned professional and pursued a spot on the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Tour.
Up to this time, my faith had not really been tested. My first challenge after college came when I had back surgery. My dream of playing professional golf was in jeopardy. I prayed that God would take control and that if He wanted me to compete, He would allow me to do so. I recovered from the surgery and I earned my way onto the LPGA tour. But, I took the credit for it—I didn't give the glory to God.
Over the years, my faith has been changing and growing. My "head" knowledge of God has been seeping down into my heart, and I have begun to truly live that out.