My family and I never went to church while growing up. We were more into sports. My dad was my brother’s football coach, he would coach us in whatever sport we played.
Then my freshman year of high school, my mom found out my dad was having affairs with multiple women.
At that point my life turned upside down. We moved out of our house and moved in with friends. It was a really ugly divorce up until my sophomore year of college. I saw parts of my dad who up until this point had been a superstar in my eyes, turn into this evil person who I came to hate.
He left us and moved out of the state. I didn’t understand. Why he would choose other women over us? Over the next 6 years my dad showed up every now and then but I would never talk to him.
I went through several stages in college. At first I hated men. I wanted nothing to do with guys. Every relationship I was in was a failure. Then I started to seek acceptance from men even though I didn’t really like them or trust them.
I wanted instant gratification: to know I was beautiful, a good athlete or that men wanted to date me.
That quickly led downhill. I was in some really bad relationships. I felt nasty about myself, empty. At the end of the day I needed something more.
I played soccer in college. Several of my teammates pushed me to join them at Athletes in Action my freshman year. I went only because they were going with me. It was so weird; I had no idea what they were talking about in the Bible study. It was like they were speaking a foreign language, but I felt a sense of ease, like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
So I kept coming every so often. One week I would go out partying then a few weeks later I would go to AIA with my teammates. They never judged me. They loved me no matter if I came with them or not.
The summer before my sophomore year, my mom bought me my first Bible. After my parents got divorced, my mom started attending church. I told her I wanted to know more about the Bible because I didn’t know anything at all.
I was excited to begin reading it but it felt like I was just reading stories. I came back to college my sophomore year and asked Lindsay, an older girl who was a grad student at Ball State, to help teach me about the Bible. I’m not typically like that but for some reason I approached her and from that point on we began to meet for discipleship to study the Bible together.
That began a slow process of asking questions and learning about Jesus.
Lindsay never turned away from me. I felt like many of the people who had been important in my life, my dad and other boyfriends, had left me when I needed them the most. Lindsay and my teammates didn’t do that.
I came to know Christ just before heading home for Christmas break that year. On that day Lindsay explained that my past has been completely nailed to the cross, as Jesus was nailed to the cross, for my sin. She continued to tell me that if I were the last person on earth Jesus still would have gone through the same horrible death so my sin could be completely wiped away. I could be made a new Maggie and have a relationship with God that I was not possible before because of my sins.
Lindsay was clear with me that my past was completely washed away.
I could have a relationship with God because of what He had done for me. That is true love. She finished by teaching me that when I surrendered to Christ; Jesus was now in me. I felt this sense of, I’m not myself. I’m not living this life for myself.
Since then it’s been amazing how God has transformed the image I had of myself. I no longer seek the instant gratification from men. How I dress and how I want to represent myself has all changed. Now I want to seek the glory of God rather than men. I still have my struggles with pride and trust but it is definitely not at the extreme that it used to be.
As a college athlete it always plays into pride and what society tells you that winning is everything you have got to do everything you can. So I didn’t fully understand what it meant to glorify God in everyday life. But Athletes in Action taught me how to incorporate God in my sport. Winning or losing doesn’t matter; it’s how I conduct myself. If I’m glorifying God while playing as hard as I can and giving it my all with the abilities that He has given me, then God is proud of me.
The summer before my junior year of college, I met my dad for lunch. After 6 years of limited communication, we reconnected. I do desire to have him in my life in some aspects but I’m still trying to work through understanding and forgiveness. I’m trusting God to guide me.
If you are reading this and for some reason you hate God, and you feel alone, know that He is constantly loving you. He will turn the situation around. Therefore, choose God as He chooses you.
It could be said that I grew up in the church, however, my heart was not entirely in it.
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