Growing up, my life revolved around soccer. Family vacations, sleepovers, meals and friendships were all planned around this sport. It consumed my life. I believed that if I worked hard enough and put in enough effort, the sky was the limit. Almost everything I did was done with the end result – to be the best soccer player I could be. My identity was so consumed by the act of training to shoot a ball into a net that when I got cut from soccer my junior year of high school, my life changed significantly. I had always been taught that if I worked hard enough, good things would come for me. In this, I began to believe that I deserved good things because I worked hard. What I didn’trealize as a sixteen year old whose world had drastically changed was that God was writing a beautiful story for me, and this was the beginning of some hard lessons that would be crucial in my journey to Christ.
From a very young age, athletes are taught that practice makes perfect and it is most important to work hard. Growing up, my parents instilled the same values in me. If I worked hard, that was all that mattered, but the hope is that if you work hard enough, good things will come. I’m one of those all or nothing girls – if I can’t do it well, I don’t like to try it, and if I can’t give it my whole heart, it’s not even worth trying it either. This carried into soccer. I wanted to give it my all. My identity was tied up in it, I was in a bad mood when I didn’t play well, I developed a temper that is not me at all; soccer was a huge idol in my life. That alone was a problem, but the belief that practice made perfect was probably even more disastrous for me. In all areas of my life, all I needed to succeed and ultimately be happy was to work hard.
I see now that God allowed me to fail in this arena, not because I didn’t work hard enough, but because there was a greater story out there for me. A story that allowed me to be completely imperfect because of who Jesus is. Yes, working hard is important, but it is even more important to realize that no matter how hard we try, we will fall short when we compare ourselves to Christ. Because I had already seen hard work fail to satisfy and reward me, I was softened to the idea of the Gospel and a Savior that demands our best, but doesn’t hold our faults against us. When I came to Christ my freshman year of college, it was so refreshing to work hard and grow at something that had something to offer me in return. I wish I could say that becoming a Christian meant that I no longer held my own shortcomings against myself, or strived for the good that comes from hard work, but I’m growing. Today as I watched the USA Women’s World Cup game, I thought about what role soccer has played in my life and the way God has used it. It’s neat to see that what I once idolized, God brought me out of and used for His glory. While I still struggle with striving, I have the privilege of serving a God who honors hard work, but ultimately loves me for me and not how many goals I can score. He has redeemed the girl whose life revolved around soccer and now made her life revolve Him, the Almighty God.