That Empty Feeling
I have always wanted to be the guy who couldn't lose. Throughout most of my childhood and into middle and high school, being the best was what drove me to do what I thought all of the ‘right’ things were. While I knew a lot about the Bible and believed in God, trust in Christ didn't become real for me until college.
I grew up in a wonderful home and learned right from wrong from incredible parents. Respect, integrity, and responsibility were what my father taught me and my siblings. I was driven to be the best at everything, especially sports, for as long as I could remember. We attended church with my grandparents every Sunday and went to Wednesday night services as well. My family supported me in all of my sports, which we found out I had some talent in. All of these things were blessings to a young person’s life, but I never really listened to the real truth of the gospel.
“I wanted to be the best at everything”
I had my first experience of knowing there truly was a God who worked in the world today when I was in middle school. Twice, God saved my life in miraculous ways: once from a storm while on a camping trip; the other was an accident involving a nail going into my eye. I became friends with a youth minister who taught me about how to accept Christ. You would think that a person would realize these miracles as signs to make a change in their life; but just as the Israelites did countless times in the Old Testament, my “turning to God” would only last for as long as it was comfortable.
My high school and early college years were plagued with wanting to be the best at everything. And in many cases, I was. I wanted to be the most popular, the best looking, and especially the most athletic. I applied my father’s teachings to be a really “good” guy. I didn't drink or have sex, thinking that this is what it took to be the best and be close to God. I used my relationship with the Lord to gain favor in eyes of my peers. By the end of high school, I was pretty well liked by most, had some sort of romantic relationship with way too many girls, and won the U.S. Army scholar/athlete Most Athletic Award for my high school.
I received a call from Coach Curt Cignetti inviting me to walk-on for the Alabama football team, so I decided to forego any Division II scholarships and play for the Tide. I had everything I had ever wanted, but somehow I didn't feel truly satisfied.
“Slowly my morals began to slip”
College really tested what I thought was truth. I claimed God still, but my view of God wouldn't allow me to have fun. Slowly my morals began to slip, and my football career was not turning out exactly like I had planned. My relationship with my girlfriend began to deteriorate, eventually ending in a break-up, and my grades slipped badly. Everything that I had built my identity on was failing me. So I took what I knew about Christianity and did what I was supposed to do: read the Bible.
It didn't make much sense at first, but one day after reading Galatians 2:20, I looked at myself in the mirror and asked, “Are you living for Christ?” Broken, I went into my room and prayed for Christ to come into my life for the first real time.
“My life began to change immediately”
I had realized my need for Christ and my lack of willingness to give my life to Him. My life began to change immediately (2 Cor. 5:17), not that I didn't struggle with many of the same things I did before. I had found true satisfaction and a peace that transcends all understanding (Phil. 4:6-7). I found what my purpose was in life and in football: to glorify God in all that I do (1 Cor. 10:11). I began to learn what His Word says and what His commands are and apply them to my life.
Winning the national championship in 2009 and getting another chance at one this year are no longer seen as my prized goal. Instead, I play the game for things eternal (1 Cor. 9:24-25): a platform to tell of Christ’s love for us and to glorify God by enjoying the gift of athleticism with which He has blessed me.
My relationships with others have become opportunities to show people how Christ’s love can show through me, instead of wanting them to love me for the “impressing” things that I do. I have taken this change in my life and have tried to fulfill the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) by leading high school kids toward the Lord and guiding them in their faith afterward through a ministry called YoungLife.
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