“I am either about to die or fly,” I thought to myself.
“Please let us win,” I prayed. Then, thinking that might sound selfish and make God take away our win, I added a quick, “Thy will be done.”
“I think my heart is going to explode. I may not survive to enjoy our triumph, or . . .” I couldn’t bear to finish the thought.
My fingers intertwined tightly with the hands of my teammates. Awaiting the announcement was taking forever.
“Breathe,” I told myself.
I was confident in our routine. We left all we had on the mat a few hours earlier. We did our best. Our fate was in the hands of the judges now. After what seemed like hours, Westview High School was not awarded second place. This meant I was a five-time national champion cheerleader! I did it! My senior year was all I ever hoped it could be!
I went out on top. Celebrations, banquets, and congratulations filled the final days of my senior year. I was on top of the world.
Was there a better feeling than what I felt in that moment?
I did not think so at the time. Outside, I was the happiest I could be. However, inside, I was a broken soul with the question of what to do next.
I was drawn toward all the shiny stuff. Clothes, accessories, anything that would get me attention. That was me from the time I was a middle school sixth grader until I was a senior in high school. I was a small-town girl living the dream as a five-time national champion cheerleader, only child, and only grandchild to my Nana.
My life revolved around cheerleading. I would breathe, eat, and sleep anything cheer related. If it was not the three-hour daily practices, six days a week, eleven months out of the year, it was tumbling class twice a week an hour away from school, or stretching at home to make sure my flexibility as a flyer was up to par.
Looking back now, I see how I molded my identity around my abilities as a cheerleader. I pushed myself to the breaking point to be the best I could be. I was living my best life. Or so I thought.
My competitive cheerleading career slipped through my fingers in the blink of an eye. The purpose for which I had been living for seven straight years vanished. Being a cheerleader was all I knew to be. It defined who I was and was the essence of my very being (or so it seemed). I did not know who I would be without that title, without that responsibility. Honestly, I was scared to find out.
If I could go back in time and say something to my seventeen-year-old self-absorbed cheerleader self, I would encourage her to honor God and to pursue Him with abandon.
The psalmist in Psalm 16 says in verse 8, "I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.”
The question to ask yourself is, what or who are you setting before you?
While high school and college sports are amazing, they are not more important than your relationship with the Lord. You will never find ultimate satisfaction through the sport you participate in. You can only find ultimate satisfaction in the One who made the ultimate sacrifice, Christ Jesus. I know it is against the norm to have Jesus first and your sport second. But, in the end, your sport is not what makes you who you are, and it does not solely determine your identity.
My identity is found in Christ Jesus. My Savior. My Lord. It is not found in the ancient history of being a five-time national champion cheerleader. It is not based on the number of black and white jackets I received from those competitions. It was not determined by the number of medals and trophies I helped win with my squad. None of that matters when it comes to who I am in Christ.
Now when I look back at some of my favorite memories from my cheerleading career, I smile. I smile not because I had it all figured out, but because I am thankful that now, I know the greater truth. I should not have been enslaved to my sport. Cheerleading should not have been more important to me than my relationship with our Father in heaven.
Friend, set the Lord before you always. Your ultimate identity is found in him. That win over your self-identity will make you a champion now and forever.
Casey Lester inspires others to find their worth in Christ. She serves as the Ministry Assistant at Tarrant Baptist Association in Fort Worth, Texas. Casey is also a wedding and portrait photographer. She is a five-time national champion cheerleader, an only child, and loves to cruise the seas. She has a passion for seeing people grow closer to Christ