I was raised going to church, and I don’t ever remember not having a relationship with God. At an early age I was able to understand things that little kids shouldn’t really understand — like the fact that life isn’t always happy, or that you can have a parent that’s working two or three jobs but still not have enough money to put food on a table. I think God gave me understanding, and I think as a little kid God allowed me to understand that even though people’s love may be inconsistent, God’s love is always consistent.
The steadiness of God’s love helps me to deal with the pressures of being an elite athlete. Once you have success as an athlete you face a unique kind of struggle. Once eyes are on you, eyes are on you. It’s really hard because you’re no longer competing just for fun, you’re no longer just doing it because you feel like you’ve got something to prove for yourself. You start to feel like you’ve got to keep the standard up.
If you can picture it, it’s like you’re holding up a bar. And at first, when you finally get the bar up there you’re so happy, so excited. But then lactic acid starts building up in your shoulders, and your arms get tired and over time you’re not just holding up a bar, you’re holding up expectations. It’s a weight that has been added to the bar. You’re holding up all these other people’s expectations, expectations that you have for yourself.
You want somebody to just help you hold the bar, sometimes you even want to put it down. You get so tired from carrying it, but the moment that you put it down somebody else is going to steal that bar and run away with it, and you’re never going to get it back because it’s somebody else’s time to shine.
But as a follower of Christ, I’ve got to step back and humble myself because this isn’t just about my shot. I’ve got to remember that it’s not about me, it’s about God shining through me. It’s not, “To me be the glory.” It’s, “To God be the glory.”
So as far as staying grounded in the midst of these expectations, the best I can do is to remind myself that God is first. God will always be first. I always have to ask myself, “What is my sport about? Is it all for me?”
In the end, if it’s all for me, then it’s only for the money and the fame. If I’m just in it for money then I become another addict and I’m just going to track practice to work everything for that next fix, that next time that everybody screams my name and claps for me. I become enslaved to my sport.
Then God puts a reminder in my heart as He says to me, “There’s nothing that can make you worthy of the love that I’m giving you. I’m going to love you no matter what. And you have to realize that nothing you do can separate Me from you.”
I just have to say back to Him, “God, I know that this is a process and I’m surrendering all to You so that I can be made perfect in You. The perfection starts with You, not me. I’m ready to see Your will be done in my life. Especially concerning my sport, may Your will be done.”
—Brigetta Barrett, USA Olympic High Jumper