“Ring, Ring, Ring.” The final school bell would ring signifying for everyone that the school day was done. For me however, this bell always meant soccer time! Whether I had practice that day or not, I knew I would get the opportunity to have a soccer ball at my feet somewhere shooting at a goal. Growing up, soccer became a regular weekly routine. From soccer practices, private trainers, and soccer games, soccer overtook everything. Every athlete could relate in the saying, “I can’t... I have (insert sport here)” when playing any competitive sport. As I grew older, soccer became the focus of my life, and I loved it!
As soccer started to fill my schedule, I began to have to sacrifice other things, at first it was just time spent with friends, and then birthday parties, and then time spent with family. I started to spend less time at youth group and church on Sundays. Before this point, Jesus was a big part of my life, but as soccer began consuming all my time and energy, Jesus took the backburner. Once I reached college, I started questioning if my sport was number one in my life and Jesus was second. Being a Christian, I yearned for Jesus to be the top priority in my life, yet my passion for soccer never dwindled.
Why was my relationship with Jesus so stagnant? No motion, and not moving. I was hit hard in the face with this question, yet it was such a simple answer... Soccer was taking all my focus. But I loved soccer. Do I have to make a choice? Jesus or Soccer?
It was not until I reached college that I realized the answer was simple. There was no choice to be made. A light bulb went off that completely changed my life. I could combine these two passions of mine. This blew my mind! As I started to learn more and more about Jesus, I realized that not only was I able to have both in my life, however, soccer was a platform for me to worship, to strengthen my relationship with Jesus, and grow with Him.
The soccer field became a completely different place once I realized I did not have to choose between soccer and Jesus.
I realized I never invited Jesus on the soccer field. The soccer field was a place about two things: soccer and me. As a seven-year-old, this was ingrained in me. The focus of soccer was always on me! How I could impress a coach, how I could be the best on the field, how I could make the best club team, how I could make varsity…etc. With the "me" mentality, there was no room for anyone else in my sport. Plain and simple, there was no room to invite someone else, and I did not want to. I finally realized the need to invite Jesus into my sport.
However, it wasn't always easy. At first, the invitation seemed simple and straightforward. “Jesus, I want you to join me on the soccer field.” I was able to talk to Him before games. I was able to pray with my teammates and talk and cheer about playing for God’s glory, and not my own. But then the whistle blew and I left Jesus on the bench. As soon as I began to play, the focus became me again.
It took constant work for me to invite Jesus on the field, into the action with me, while I was playing. My soccer career took another dramatic change when I did this. I finally learned to invite Jesus onto the actual field with me, into the battle, into every part of my game and the sport.
How? I talked to him on the soccer field. I started to pray from the start of the whistle to the end of the whistle. I talked to Him about how nervous I was before kick off, about how tired I was during the second half, about how frustrated I was when my team was not playing well, about how funny it was when the ref would run into me. We talked, we laughed, and ultimately I felt His presence on the soccer field in a way I had never experienced Him before. It was extremely hard for me to focus on myself, glorifying myself when I was in constant communication with my savior, the person I truly wanted to glorify.
A simple invitation changed my whole soccer career.
The soccer field became a refuge for me, not because it was a place I could run away from everything that was happening off the field, but because it became a place I could truly feel God’s presence, a place I got to enjoy my savior and spend sweet, sweet time with Him.
My only regret was not sending my invitation out sooner. I had two years of the best soccer of my life. I often think back to what it would have been like if I sent my invitation sooner.
Where is Jesus for you? Is he near your sports field or court? Have you left him on the sidelines? No doubt Jesus is with you at every practice, every game, in everything you do! I know He is just eagerly waiting for your invitation to join!
Hi Everyone! I work for Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and specifically I get to work in the soccer community. Two of the biggest passions in my life are Jesus and soccer. Getting to combine the two and use soccer to bring people to know Jesus is the coolest thing! I grew up in Orange County, played soccer at Biola University where I studied Kinesiology. It brings me so much joy to share Jesus’ love with people and walk alongside, encourage and empower female athletes.