Ice hockey has been a passion of mine for a long time now and a big part of my life. When the 2014 Sochi Olympics was only weeks away, I was seeing my lifelong dream of competing as an Olympian come true! But my career as an athlete is not what defines me. I’ve found that I cannot base my identity in my hockey skills. There’s a greater purpose behind why I compete; that purpose is to honor God.
Growing up as an ice hockey player, I spent many summers at an ice hockey camp for Christ-followers. At these camps, I found incredible role models who were great at ice hockey, and more importantly, they really loved Jesus and wanted to use their sport to honor Him. Seeing hockey professionals who love Christ whom I could look up to and emulate was very influential for me.
During my freshman year playing for UConn, I struggled. I wasn’t playing a lot; half of the games I didn’t even dress for. I couldn’t find security in my sport, so I turned to God. Romans 8:38-39 says, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This passage became a foundational truth for my life. I came to experience that no matter how I played on the ice, nothing can separate me from God’s love.
I heard that Athletes in Action was going to be meeting on UConn’s campus, so I contacted the new AIA director. This quickly became a place for me to connect with other athletes and to find love, acceptance, accountability and friendship. The next summer, I devoted myself to working my very hardest at my sport, and for the first time, I wasn’t focusing on what my coaches, trainers or teammates thought about me. I was finally able to play freely for the game, not for my identity. Having this newfound freedom and love for the game, my level of play improved quickly, and I even got the Most Improved Player Award the following season.
For the past three years, I have been playing ice hockey in my dad’s home country, Switzerland, with the hopes of joining their national team and ultimately going to the Olympics. It took a lot of faith to uproot and move to another country, I wasn’t sure if it was worth it. Adjusting to a new culture, a new community, and a new set of languages was not easy. It was sometimes very challenging but it paid off with now having the opportunity to compete with the Swiss team in Sochi.
I love ice hockey but more than that, I love God. More than going to the Olympics and playing ice hockey, I want to honor and know God. Following Christ teaches me to have a submissive heart, knowing that He is in control of all things, and to hold things like going to the Olympics with open hands. It is a huge honor and blessing to be able to go to the Olympics and to be called an Olympian, but it is so much more of an honor to be able to be called a child of God, to be forgiven of my sin and to be able to have Christ’s righteousness as my own.
God tells us in Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” This has been a verse that I repeat to myself when I’m anxious, about to compete, or making a decision for my life. Knowing God is always with me, coaching me in life, is the greatest gift of all.
— Jessica Lutz, ice hockey player for Switzerland