Luke 9: 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.
I read a great blog article from Claire Hanna, a former Ladies National Volleyball Team player, entitled: The Athlete Transition: Struggling with Identity After Sport. I love the honesty of the article which chronicles her losing her spot on the national team and overnight having to come to grips with a new life without volleyball. “That following year was incredibly difficult. I didn’t know who ‘Claire’ was anymore. So much of my identity was wrapped up in sports, and with volleyball out of the picture I felt so lost.” [i]
Claire’s story is not unique. Almost every athlete who transitions from the sport they love, which for many has been all they have known since they were small children, faces many dark and difficult times. Most will admit that their identity was wrapped up in being “An Athlete”, and once that phase of their life came to an end, they searched for their new identify. “I need to find myself” is the frequent cry of the retired athlete.
The desire to find oneself is not, however, unique to athletes. I have often heard people from all walks of life declare a desire to “find themselves”. Whenever I hear this, I am always drawn to the words Jesus spoke to his disciples. As he so frequently did, Jesus turned the tables on their ends with one of his dichotomies.
23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? (Luke 9: 23-30)
As a Christian, Jesus makes it very clear that the only way for us to “find ourselves” is for us to “lose ourselves”. This means that our identity cannot be in ourselves, it must be in, and with, Jesus. “19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” (1 Cor. 6:19-20)
If you are an active athlete today, take an honest survey of your life to determine whether your identity is wrapped up in that label. Are you a “volleyball player”, a “track athlete”, a “football player”, a “basketball player” or perhaps a “golfer”? Be rest assured that God does not see you as that. He has given you the talent and the drive to succeed in those things, but it is not who you are. God has much greater things in store for you than athletic prowess, and your life is certainly not on its way down when your athletic career ends. If you choose to follow Christ, He says to you: “’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 hope and a future.’” (Jeremiah 29:11).
Seek Him out; bask in the knowledge of God’s unconditional love for you which is not based on your performance. Ask Him to show you your identity in Christ and listen to the leading of the Holy Spirit as you take on the good works which He has prepared in advance for you to do (Ephesians 2:10). Lose yourself to Him and in that place you will truly find yourself.