When I was growing up my brother and I loved to play sports. We played all the time in the back yard—football and basketball mostly. Then in middle school and high school the intensity of our play and the game began to increase. I always loved to work hard and play hard. I looked up to my uncle and dad who played college football, and I wanted to play in college like them. I was motivated by the thought that I didn’t want to be the first one in the family to not play in college. I felt pressure to perform.
Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t pressure that came directly from my uncle or dad. I had a great family. I grew up going to church and God was a big part of our family. I learned early on from church and my parents, that I needed Christ in my life. I invited Him in by confessing the wrong things I have done and asked Him to forgive me. I know God came into my life that day. I wish I could tell you everything was perfect from then on, but it wasn’t. There was a lot for me to work on.
When I showed up at Virginia Tech there were a couple of guys that I began to hang out with who had a great influence in my life. They were great guys because they would ask me tough questions that challenged me in my understanding of who God is and who I am. They said God wanted everything of me and He wanted to be a part of every area of my life, even football. I was challenged to think about my motivation—often throughout a game I would think about how many tackles I had or how I am playing, I was concerned with the stats. I realized that what I thought about during the game was a good indication of my motivation. I was not really letting God be a part of my football.
I went to an Athletes in Action Ultimate Training Camp where they taught how to integrate God into your sport. I walked away from that camp a different person. I had a new motivation to play and compete. I was playing to honor God for what He has done in my life. I was most challenged by one of the principles taught at the AIA camp, which was about having a focal point. I use a visual reminder to help me focus on why I am playing the game. It is a way that I can thank God for all He has done in my life. It has been a process of learning what honoring God during a game looks like. One example was towards the end of the third quarter in a hard, close game, when I looked up to the sky, it was a beautiful night and I was in awe of God’s beauty. I said to God I don’t have anything else to give; You are going to have to help carry me to the end of this game. I felt His presence with me as I finished the game with great intensity.
Before, I was just playing to fulfill my love of football. Now I am playing because of God’s love for me. I have a new motivation. I am no longer playing for the external stats of the game, but am honoring Him in the intensity I have in practice and during the game. I am representing God out there.
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