Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about how unique and special every single person on earth is. How God handcrafted each individual with His love, making no two the exact same. How each person is given beautiful gifts, selected by God, to make an impact on the world and shine a light on His kingdom.
Yet, often we fall into the patterns of daily life and we forget how amazing God really is. As athletes, we have early mornings, long practices, and hours dedicated to the little things outside of our sport like nutrition, sports psychology, injury prevention and sleep. By doing these things right, we hope that our performance inside the gym, on the field or in the rink will improve.
Born in Minnesota, I was raised in the Catholic Church and went to Mass every Sunday with my family. Although I was baptized, went through my first communion and confirmation, it wasn’t until college that pieces fell in line and my faith really become my own.
When I was little, I had a hard time believing that God was real. I couldn’t quite grasp how you could believe in something when you couldn’t hear, see or touch it. I understood the concept of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, but I didn’t quite believe yet because I was missing something. I wanted something real, that I could hear or see with my own two eyes. I simply wanted proof.
Gymnastics has always been my passion. Ever since I was three-years-old, I have tumbled, twisted, and turned all over playgrounds and gyms. Flipping became second nature to me, and my love for the sport has only increased over the years. Never once did I imagine standing where I am today.
During my sophomore year of high school, I received the opportunity to compete at the toughest competition of the Junior Olympic program, the Nastia Liukin Cup. The top 36 gymnasts qualify for the competition by winning the All-Around at select invitationals around the country. The meet was held in a large arena and televised, something that most gymnasts aren’t used to unless they are in the Olympics or NCAA.
I went and competed in Greensboro, North Carolina, in front of thousands of people. I took dead last. I had fallen not just once, but twice, and even had a hard crash. I was embarrassed, and even ashamed, of my performance in front of such a large crowd. I felt like a failure.
Thankfully, God gave me a second chance. The following year, the competition was held at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, Texas. Hopefully, some of you are familiar, but if not, this stadium is the largest, most beautiful stadium I think I’ve ever been in, let alone competed in.
The days leading up to the competition were stressful. Our flight got redirected to Detroit, Michigan, before finally landing in Texas. I missed the whole training day. The meet directors allowed me a couple of turns on the equipment, but I was so frazzled that I’m not even sure it helped. Competition day came and I was about as ready as I could be after finally getting to settle down and get a good night’s rest.
I hit the first event and went on to the second, the balance beam. I warmed up but was a mess. I was so nervous, I could feel my whole body shaking. My mind was racing one hundred different directions.
And that’s when I heard God speak.
Just before I mounted the beam, the song, “Chelsea Dagger” began playing in the background and I immediately felt calm. I felt like everything slowed down and, at that moment, I felt God’s strength. I knew exactly what was to come and I knew I had the most powerful, forgiving and loving God on my side.
I saluted, did one of my best routines, and never looked back.
I ended up winning the meet, but when I look back now, that isn’t what sticks out to me. That isn’t what I remember first. What I remember is that God was looking out for me. And for the first time, I heard him speak to me through music, in a time when I desperately needed Him. Now, I hear Him every single day.
How does God speak to you? Has there been a time or two where He has spoken to you but you have been too busy to listen?
Yeah, me too.
I encourage you to see God, to choose Him in your daily lives. To listen for Him. Each one of us hears Him differently, whether it is through His word, His creation, other believers, music, prayer, or even dreams, I encourage you to actively seek Him out every single day. Revelation 2:7 says, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
When we listen, we learn to love and that is what God calls us to do. If we aren’t listening to Him, our lamps will burn out no matter how busy we are doing His work. Without love, we have no light or truth.
Repent and run towards the light.
Maddie Karr is a NCAA Division I gymnast, entering her junior year at the University of Denver. She competes in All-Around.