1984 USA Olympic High jumper
I remember an assistant track coach talking to me, when I was a sophomore in high school, about priorities and about how I was created to have a relationship with God. At that point in time, I was not interested in making God a priority in my life. Achievement was far more important to me. During high school and college, personal success in academics and sports came easily. My motivation was to prove to people that I could do what they didn't think I could do. An athletic scholarship at Washington State enabled me to take my high jumping to the top level. I qualified for the Olympic Trials in 1984 and made the Olympic Team. During that process, I met another person who talked to me about God. He invited me to attend church with him. I would go, sit in the back and listen to the pastor preach. It was amazing, I wondered how the pastor, who had never met me, talked about things I had been thinking about but never verbalized. In the midst of 2,500 other people in the church, I felt he was talking directly to me. But, I still did not believe I needed God in my life.
I started playing in the orchestra at church and helping with the Special Olympics program through the church. My motivation was, as it always had been, to do good things to make myself feel and look good. I felt like I was a pretty good guy and no better or worse than most people. Deep down in my heart though, I knew something was missing. God was clearly tugging at my shirt tales, but I still wasn't ready to respond fully.
In 1988 I won the National Championship and was favored to make the Olympic team again. At the Trials I experienced a severe case of heat stroke and failed to make the team. It was over six months before I stepped on a track again. I was in a pseudo depression because of my disappointment. At this point, a third man modeled the Christian life for me. He was a great coach and a man who challenged me on where I stood in my walk with God. The bottom line was, I was not willing to give up control of my life to God because, up to this point, I thought I had done pretty well on my own.
In the back of my mind, I had filed stories I heard from several people when they had gone through difficult times. They came to a point where they recognized a need for something greater than themselves to guide their lives. It took one more serious injury for me before I reached the same realization -- that I needed God in my life. I wasn't able to handle life's ups and downs on my own. I needed to experience God's love and his forgiveness in a personal way.
On December 1, 1991, I got on my knees and asked God to take charge of my life. I prayed and thanked God for sending his son Jesus Christ to pay the penalty for my sins. I thanked God for allowing me to find life and purpose and hope in him.
I didn't tell anyone about this decision for a long time because I wanted to make sure it was true in my life. Soon I began talking to other Christians and discovered that several people had been praying for me for years before my decision. God used many people to help me understand the depth of his love for me. He has used several people since to help me study the Bible and walk with God on a daily basis.
God has changed my life. Now I have a constant companion who sticks with me through the struggles and victories in life.
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