There is a statement you may have heard more than once in the media today. It is a statement that has spread throughout the elites to raise awareness of the current controversies surrounding politicians and athletes. The loud statement, “I am more than an athlete,” speaks out in hope of breaking the stereotype that athletes are only good for dribbling a ball or running on a field.
Lately, the statement has spread like wildfire among elite sports men and women with strong, positive undertones that demand to be heard. It suggests, “Listen to me as I do have a voice, I am important as a human being, I do hold great responsibilities and roles in this world, and I am valued and worth more than my abilities and skills.”
While this is one way to translate the suggested meaning of the statement, I (as a devoted Christian and retired professional basketball player) would like to unpack the meaning of, “I am more than an athlete,” with a different perspective in mind. I would like to shed light on how God sees athletes amidst the controversy of this statement in today’s society.
The statement, “I am more than an athlete,” screams desperation to be known and not just for what we can achieve, but for who we are rather than what we do. The controversial comment wants to be heard by politicians, fans and even loved ones, to highlight the depth and diversity of athletes.
I believe it is also saying, “Here I am, why doesn’t anyone else see me for everything I truly am? Why doesn’t anyone else see that I am a dad, a mother, a brother or a sister? Why doesn’t anyone else see that I am kind, loving, smart, loyal and charismatic? And finally, why do they just see me for what I can do on the court or field?”
There is a concerning gap between what we do and who we are that needs to be addressed. We need to know that we are already seen, known and deeply loved. We need to know that we are more intimately known by the Creator of the universe and the God who knows all, sees all and loves all (John 10:14-15).
As human beings, we are not only designed to connect and have intimate relationships with each other, but also God. When we have a relationship with God, we know who He is and He knows who we are (1 Corinthians 8:3). It is comforting to those who believe to hear that we are fully seen, fully known and fully loved by God. It is in Psalm 44:21 that the beauty, “God knows the secrets of the heart,” is revealed.
When we know that God knows our ways, days, thoughts, the secrets of the heart, and as 1 John 3:20 puts it, “He knows everything,” we are compelled to declare to the world that we are more. We want to say, “Yes, I am more than an athlete, but I am also precious beyond belief. I am a son or daughter of the Most-High, I am who He says I am, and I am worth more than anyone could ever bare to imagine to the King of Kings.”
When we fully understand that our God is relational and personal, we understand our identity – we understand where our identity lies and who our identity resides in. As athletes, we tend to get caught up thinking who we are only matters because of what we do with our sport, but there is so, so much more to our purpose than performance. We often get caught up believing that our performance on the court (or field) is about ourselves and what we can bring to the game.
Unfortunately, even as Christians, we sometimes forget that sports should be used as a platform to bring Him glory with the abilities He has given us. Ultimately, what we do with our God-given talent is ours to freely choose, but I so dearly pray we always choose His will. His will comes from knowing that with great power comes great responsibility. As Luke 12:48 says, “Everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”
As believers in Jesus Christ, we are urged to give thanks in everything we do, as “this is the will of God in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). By choosing to give thanks, we are choosing to give our very best at all times – on and off the court. We are choosing to praise God and give back to Him what He has so freely given to us, by how we play the game. How we go about doing this is to be steadfast in the mindset, “In Jesus Name I Play.”
So, what we do does not define who we are. Separating what we do from who we are is imperative to becoming who He has made us to be, and who we truly are in His sight. He made us to know Him and to make Him known. He made us in His image. Therefore, our title may be “athlete,” but our identity is “Christ.”
– Skye Rees
Skye Rees played NCAA Division I Basketball at the University of Arkansas, before eventually going on to play professionally overseas. She is now retired.