I never knew my sport would open a door for a collegiate scholarship for me. As one of four children, I didn’t know how I’d be able to afford a higher education. I simply loved running track and competing in hurdles; I figured I’d do that until I had to get a traditional job. It wasn’t until my sophomore year in high school that I realized doing this thing I loved — running track — could open doors for a brighter future for me. And little did I know that the relationships I would build in college would change my eternal perspective.
Receiving a scholarship to run track at the University of Texas was a great blessing. While there, I was able to get involved in a few different campus ministries that focused on Jesus Christ and how to grow closer to Him. I had accepted Christ into my life at the age of 13 at a summer camp, and it was then that I realized a relationship with Christ wasn’t something I had to ask for continually. I only had to ask Jesus into my heart once and He would stay.
But from that age on, I aimed to be a good person. I didn’t have a Christ-centered community, nor did I have Godly role models showing me what it looked like to really follow Jesus. I didn’t read the Bible; my only time spent with God was when I went to church on Sundays. Suddenly at college, I saw men and women who displayed a personal, intimate relationship with Christ. These people were chasing after Jesus and helping others do the same.
This was where I began to be discipled by other Christ-followers. I began to understand the importance of spending time alone with God and in community with other believers. I never saw this type of lifestyle modeled before; it was hard, at first, for me to come around to the idea of having an everyday relationship with God. It had been a once-a-week, Sunday-morning routine for me. But I began to ask these Christ-followers questions about why it’s important to spend time with Jesus, and how I could do that for myself. It’s because of these men and women that I know what it means to have intimacy with God.
Today, as I compete internationally with the Colombian national team, I have to make decisions that set me apart. I try to be a Christlike example to whomever I’m with, whether that be my teammates, my siblings or anyone else. So when my teammates ask me why I don’t go out drinking or to clubs with them, I have an opportunity to share the love and truth of God with them. While some of my teammates may not understand the choices I make, they respect them. I hope that as we continue to have conversations about what’s important to each of us, God opens doors for spiritual discussions.
I’m not willing to compromise my beliefs. Yes, it may be easier, and much more comfortable, to go along with whatever my teammates are doing, but it’s not what we’re called to do as Christ-followers. We’re not promised a comfortable life. In fact, if we choose to follow Christ, we are promised to face opposition and persecution. That may be in the form of teammates laughing at you for standing out, or it may be as serious as putting your life in danger for making a stance for Christ. But whatever the cost, eternal life with Christ is worth it.
My relationship with Christ is what it is today because of Christ-followers who took the time to pour into me. I think of a woman at my university who spent time with me, sometimes even brief moments, to challenge, encourage and teach me. She never challenged me in a way that felt like she was attacking me, but it was done out of love for me. This type of accountability and mentorship was so critical in my growth as a Christ-follower.
Today, I continue to seek out older, wiser Christ-followers who can help me grow deeper in my walk with Christ. I also look for others whom I can help disciple. By taking the time to develop relationships with my teammates and getting to know them outside of our sport, I’m able to discover how to help them encounter Jesus in a personal way. What do they enjoy besides track and field? What are their dreams? What kind of faith journey do they come from?
If you ask questions and really listen, people will share. It may be as simple as asking someone to get coffee to share the love of Christ with them. This small, repetitive act may be how they grow to love and cherish Jesus Christ. It was for me.
—Melissa Blough, Colombian hurdler