by Jamie Lynn Gaylor

Ever since I can remember, I have been involved with sports in some form or another. From the time I was old enough to kick, dribble or throw a ball I was doing it. My life revolved around whatever sport was being played at the time. In high school I was the athlete going from soccer to basketball to softball. I was obsessed with sports. I was obsessed, but I would never admit it.
I was never totally satisfied with who I was as a person, so I found my identity and my acceptance in playing sports. The only times I felt good were after a game or a good practice. The way I felt always depended upon how well I had performed. I enjoyed the satisfaction of doing well in a game, and the thrill of the glory that came along with that. I liked it when people talked about me, and I liked the way I felt when I had done good and people were impressed. It was those times of feeling good about myself that kept me coming back for more. During the sports seasons, I would be gone from 8 o’clock in the morning to 8 o’clock at night, coming home long enough to get something to eat. On game days I wouldn’t get home until 11 o’clock on some nights. I didn’t have much time to myself, let alone have time for God in my life.
During my junior year in high school, I tore my ACL in a soccer game. I missed that whole year of playing basketball and softball because I had to have surgery to fix my knee. It was at this time that I knew the Lord was trying to get my attention. Not being able to do anything for 6 months because of rehabilitation, I started to pay a little more attention to Him. Despite that kind of an injury though, I was still determined to get well and play sports again. I wasn’t happy with my life, and my so called relationship with the Lord, so I had to get back to the only thing that I knew would make me feel good about myself.
I did get well, and the next year I decided that I was going to play basketball. Right before basketball season was supposed to start though, a friend admonished me concerning my obsession with sports. This friend told me that my obsession with sports was hindering what the Lord wanted for my life. As soon as this friend said that to me, I knew he was right. For the next few days I struggled with giving up sports. Even though I knew what that friend had said was correct, I was not totally willing to give up the sports. Sports was the only thing that I had known for 17 years of my life, and giving that up would mean giving up control of my life.
Inspite of my own convictions, I ended up deciding to play basketball and had rationalized it in my own head to make myself feel better about it. Although I had rationalized it in every way possible, I still knew in my heart that it was wrong. For the whole basketball season, all I wanted to do was quit. I never did, though, because I felt that I had made a commitment, and that I couldn’t let everyone down. My heart was full of guilt, and I knew that the only way to get rid of that guilt was to stop and turn to Jesus, but I just wasn't ready to give up sports and all the attention that came with it.
Only by the grace of God did I make it through that basketball season without injuring myself again. After all the heartache I had from playing basketball, I knew that I couldn’t make it through another sports season, so I decided not to play softball. This too was the grace of God in my life because that was when my life started to change.
Until that point I had never known a life without sports. My identity was in who I was as an athlete, not as a person. Playing sports was the only way that I had known to feel good about who I was. Not playing softball finally gave me some time to discover that there is another way to feel good about who I am. It was at this time that I started to seek the Lord, and ask Him what His purpose was for my life. By asking Him what His purpose was for me, I was giving up control of my life. I no longer had the right to choose how I was going to live my life, because I gave that right back to the Lord.
I graduated from high school 2 years ago, and have not for one day missed playing sports. The guilt that I constantly felt is gone, and the need to perform to feel accepted is slowly leaving as well. I find more satisfaction in doing the things the Lord tells me to do, than I ever felt in one game of basketball, soccer, or softball. The sports always left me hungry for more. The Lord satisfies a longing in my heart that no one or anything has ever been able to satisfy.
Living my whole life under the pressure of performing has made it difficult to accept that Jesus loves me no matter what I do or say. I have felt many times that I have to perform well in order for God to love me, and that as soon as I make a mistake, He’s going to turn His back on me. This is something that the Lord is healing in my life, but I still constantly struggle with. I am learning that even during the times that I make mistakes His love for me never changes. I am also learning that my righteousness is not in what I do, or who I am, but that it is in Him. I am always going to make mistakes, and do things wrong, but His love for me will always remain the same. He is a faithful God!