If you would have told me five years ago that, by now, I would have experienced and taken part in some of the things that sports has led me to, I might have laughed in your face. I mean, yeah, it is a typical Canadian kids’ dream to play hockey in the NHL, but for most kids that dream passes by without even coming close. I’ve come to realize that I most likely will never live the dream of playing in the NHL, but for four days, including three games, I got the chance to play in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), one of the premier stepping stones to the NHL.
Let me start off with this; God graciously gave me the chance to grow up in a home that revolved around Christ. He gave me two wonderful parents who, from the start, have always been there to help me walk in Christ’s love. He gave me two siblings, and yeah, as much as we fight and argue, I know that they love me unconditionally. I am blessed to see God’s work in their lives day-by-day.
One of the Bible verses I rely on most, whether I find myself in a situation, or a friend is going through a rough time and I want to encourage them, is Jeremiah 29:11; “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” It has always given me comfort knowing that whatever path God leads me on He will never harm me and, whatever I go through, I will always have a hope and future in Him. My hockey career is a good example of this.
Most hockey players, after playing two years of Midget hockey, which I have, will start to look at the ranks of Junior hockey to continue their hockey careers. This has led me find that, as much as I have relied on Jeremiah 29:11, when I was brought through deep waters and tough situations, I need God more than ever before, yet I am often less willing to surrender my life to His plans.
For example, almost immediately after my season ended, I received a phone call from a local team that was interested in me. They wanted me to attend a spring camp they were holding in the coming months. It’s funny now but, Junior hockey tryouts, the one thing I would have never picked to have any impact on my spiritual life at all, ended up being the very thing that brought me to the understanding I now have of God’s plan, and God’s ways.
My first year of tryouts was the first time I dealt with the idea of playing hockey somewhere other than my hometown. The entire tryouts process was a bumpy, bumpy ride for a kid and his family who had never been through anything like it before. It involved so many tears, so much stress, and the continual, “God, let your will be done,” prayer. In fact, the whole Junior hockey thing almost didn’t happen.
It took me until the last exhibition game to get settled down. Before the final game, I read Jeremiah 29:11, the verse I’ve given to so many people going through struggles, and just prayed, “God, whatever your will is, let it be done. Not what I want, but what you want.”
That year, I ended up playing hockey in Goderich, a small community about 100 kilometers away from my home in Strathroy, Ontario. It was exactly where God wanted me and it opened up so many doors that I did not expect. My biggest takeaway from that year is that you may think your plan is best, but God always has a plan you have never thought of, and His is always better.
The next year was another set of tryouts. This time, to crack a Junior B roster. I promised myself I wouldn’t let it get to me, knowing God has a plan, and His plan is far better than my plan. Oh, how I wish it was that simple. Once again, I went into tryouts with a plan in mind, and once again, I found out God’s plans, ways and will are greater than mine.
You guessed it, more tears, more frustration, and even though I know the One who holds my future, I failed to understand His plan and just be patient. This time, though, God brought me into a situation that I never thought about or saw coming, again proving, His plans are way better than mine. By the grace of God, I ended up playing Junior B hockey to start the year.
Going through the same situation a second time taught me to be more firm in my faith. It was in this situation, playing Junior B, that I got the chance to be a call-up for the London Knights of the OHL for 3 games, a team I grew up cheering my heart out for. I never would have thought it was possible, but God made a way, because His plans will forever be greater than my plans and I know His plans are always good and will never harm me.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” ~ Isaiah 55:8-9
Although this season hasn’t gone exactly the way I would have planned it, I know it has gone the exact way God wanted it to. Through it, He has gotten what He wanted from me, a closer relationship with Him.
I know that no matter where my hockey path may take me, there is not a step that God has not planned, and that’s OK because I know He will only do things that will benefit me.