“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)
"Do not worship any other gods besides me. Do not make idols of any kind, whether in the shape of birds or animals or fish. You must never worship or bow down to them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not share your affection with any other god!” (Exodus 20:3-5)
Whenever someone asks me about myself, I start with the simple things first: My first name, where I go to school, and what sport I play. I have realized that, out of all of these things, the only thing that will stay consistent for the entirety of my life is my first name. How we define ourselves is important to note.
We must be careful and aware of what drives us, because those things can become something much greater than ourselves – they can become Idols.
As a college athlete, it is easy to become defined by your sport – at least that has been my experience. On my first day of class, I would have to tell my teacher that I was an athlete and that my game schedule might cause me to miss class… When I would meet new people, I would always start by telling them I was an athlete… I found myself only hanging out with other athletes on my team. This focus on my sport made it really difficult for me to think about anything else – I was so worried about what team we were playing next, if I was going to get a starting position, and how well I performed in the last game. I was worshipping my sport – and I found that this quickly caused me to find my worth in my performance on the field, rather than in my relationship with the Lord.
Through High school, I was always a starter on the field. I started over seniors when I was a freshman and I transitioned onto a division one travel team from my small hometown division two team. Soccer always came easy for me because I was fast and I was able to make up for my lack of soccer knowledge with my physical ability and grit on the field.
I never used to rely on God for strength because he had already blessed me with it in my physical life. I discovered that I would only turn to Him when I did not have the spiritual strength to overcome difficult things in my life. And when I entered college, I did not prepare myself for the change of speed on the field or the style of play my new coach loved. Instead of being a starter and playing every game like I was used to in high school and club soccer, I got very little – if any – playing time my freshman season, which made me question my decision to play college soccer at all.
If I’m not going to play, then why am I here, God? - That is what I would say to myself after every game that I didn’t get to play in. Although I was in a Christian environment and surrounded by people who loved God, I was too stubborn to open up and truly hear what they were trying to tell me and what God was trying to teach me. Because I refused to listen, I found myself in a vicious cycle that I could not break on my own. That’s when God entered in and showed himself to me in a different way than before. I had the opportunity to go on a mission’s trip to El Salvador in spring of 2016. Going on that trip changed my life forever.
During this trip, I was made aware of what Idols were. The things that we worship in our everyday lives can become so overwhelmingly important to us that we are defined by their positive or negative attributes. Soccer was my Idol. I was engulfed by it and it controlled my happiness. When I did something wrong or I didn’t get playing time, I found myself in a brief depression. I wouldn’t want to talk to anyone and I found myself listening to the lies of the enemy in these dark, lonely times.
The enemy would say, “You don’t contribute to the team, so you aren’t worthy” and “You are only loved when you play well”. These lies encompassed my life and my happiness. I finally got out of this darkness when I realized that my WORTH is not in earthly things. I am not and never will be defined by how man sees me.
I am only defined by the way The Lord sees me and He is the only being that I should worship. GOD is is the only being that I should worship and because of him, I am whole.
Regardless of the circumstances you may be in today, I want to encourage you to be grateful because God has put you where you are for a reason. What he wants to teach you may not be clear at the moment, but I promise He is with you and there is a reason you sit in the season you are in. When I was so disappointed in myself as a soccer player, now I can see that God was teaching me about life and growing me – and for that I am so grateful. In every season of your life, remember that God is GOOD and is worthy of all of your praise!
My name is Justis Bailey and I am a senior soccer player at Lipscomb University. I am a nursing student and a captain on my soccer team. I love setting goals, challenging myself and going on mini adventures in my spare time!