A Changed Life: Richelle

Running for God.

Richelle Gray with Amber Kinneer

My siblings and I grew up in a home with alcoholic parents. When they drank together, they fought.

As a child, I remember police frequently visiting my home, trying to break up my parents and their outbursts following time at the bar. I felt threatened, having to side with one parent when the police asked for an explanation of the situation.

My job was always to hide my mom’s car keys and lock her bedroom door, so she wouldn’t drive off.

I would often count down the hours until it was time to go to school and be set free from home.

The day after the police would visit, neighbors always asked what was going on and I would make things up because I was embarrassed to tell the truth.

Emotionally, I was falling apart. I felt like there was no other family that could be as horrible as mine. What other 10-year-old could tell you that the majority of their weekends and holidays were spent at the bar with their siblings while their parents got drunk?

I felt like my life had no meaning and that no one cared about me. I thought there was no way anyone could understand what I was going through.

Because I hated home so much, I revolved my time around activities that kept me away.

My happiness came from being committed to school and sports, and exceeding in them. If I put enough time into everything away from home, I could avoid that area of my life. And I hid it very well, holding all my emotions and struggles inside.

Eventually, I came to the realization that those things could not fill my heart. My family problems got worse, school got harder, and running wasn’t going as well as I wanted because I wasn’t getting what I wanted out of it. I felt like I was never good enough, something I still wrestle with today.

Yet, through these trials, I have learned that God won’t give me anything I can’t handle. I know that everything happens for a reason and I have to keep telling myself that.

Eventually, my mom made the decision to stop drinking for her kids. Through Alcoholics Anonymous, she was invited to church for the first time. At this church, I learned for the first time about a God that loves me unconditionally.

What my mom did for me and my siblings gave us a new beginning, a different look at life and its meaning.

A few years after, I went to a church camp and listened to a speaker explain what it meant to have a personal relationship with Christ. He said that God takes us as we are and we don’t have to change or fix our lives before we accept Him into our heart.

My initial response was questioning how God could love me, an imperfect girl. But then the speaker explained that God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for everything we have or ever will do wrong. Then, he told how Jesus rose again. And that’s it, there’s no catch. All I had to do was realize my wrongs and ask God into my heart.

Since then, I’ve been growing in my relationship with God, learning about His plan for me and all that He offers me as His child.

When I put my trust in God and let Him carry the burden of my trials, I know He is the only one who has never and will never let me down. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

Not everything is fixed once someone starts following God. I still struggle in parts of my life and my family problems didn’t just fade away. In fact, to be honest, they’ve gotten worse.

My mom is still sober and I thank God for that every day. But my dad is driven to alcohol more than he has ever been. He is no longer working and spends every day, every minute, in the bar.

I constantly want to fix my dad, have a better relationship with him and help him find God. Now that I follow God, I have someone to turn to when I just want to give up.

Only God can change people, but we are able to plant a seed or ignite a spark. This is significant to me because I want to fix everyone’s problems, especially my family’s.

The only way out of everything I was going through for a long time was running. Running was my detox from everything, all the time. I thought that was fine.

Through Athletes in Action, I learned that God and running didn’t have to be separate areas of my life. I could put God first and praise Him when I run.

Colorado Project 2011, a summer mission experience affiliated with AIA, helped me understand this God and running link. It also helped me learn to let people in on my life.

God doesn’t want us to deal with our problems alone.

Two things I know for sure are that to God, I lack nothing and am perfectly loved. God has me just the way I am and is helping me through this life, while loving every minute of it.

And you know what? I love every minute of it, too.

Bio: Richelle lives in Toledo, Ohio. She is in her third year at the University of Toledo with the women’s cross-country and track team. Richelle trains by herself, works part time on campus and is involved with AIA. When she’s not training, juggling assignments or helping lead Bible study, Richelle is intentionally praying and reaching out to her teammates who don’t know God.

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