Gymnastics, Grace, Deliverance
God being real was something that I had struggled with throughout my life. As a child, I didn't know if it would be like Santa Claus, where I would grow up and learn there was no God. But as Corwin shared with me, I just knew this was it. I prayed right then and there to receive Christ.
And that's when the change began. That's when I started believing that maybe I wasn't a mistake. All my life I had been told that I was a mistake, because my parents had been unmarried teenagers when my mother got pregnant. For the first time, I heard that God has a plan for my life. I'm thinking, me? Even me?
I was truly excited to finally know that God is real, and He loved me and had a purpose for me. I wasn't one of a gazillion people He just threw here on earth. He actually has a plan for me.
Other gymnasts I've interviewed were Christians from the start. You have a rare perspective. How was your experience as a gymnast different after you became Christian?
Oh, it changed dramatically. Before I came to know Christ, I was a very sad person. I had many things in my life that made me melancholy. Since I found my self-worth in my gymnastics, everything I did as a gymnast either gave me value or took it away. But when I came to know Christ, I learned that God created me and loved me whether or not I performed well on the beam. So I began to understand the unconditional love God has for us, and the value He places on us.
I was able to approach gymnastics with a completely different mindset. I no longer approached it as though it were a do-or-die situation. Instead, I saw it as my opportunity to honor Christ by using the talent he has given me.
Gymnastics, for me, was a form of worship. I know that might sound crazy. But it was my way of performing for an audience of one.
If faith shaped your experience as a gymnast, how did your experience as a gymnast shape your faith? How did it influence what you believe and what you value?
That's a good question -- and a hard one. For me, gymnastics is symbolic of life. Period. It's a microcosm. The sport taught me discipline, goal-setting, and the patience to learn a new skill. That carries over spiritually. In your walk with Christ, it takes discipline to spend time in his word, and patience to learn and grow and get to the place where He wants you to be -- which is ultimately to be more like Christ himself.
So I look at gymnastics as a metaphor for my walk with Christ since it does take discipline and persistence. You may not see the results you want right away, but God has a plan for us. And if we are persistent and continue to walk in the way we know we should go, then we end up at our goal. For Christians, of course, that ultimate goal may not happen here on earth, but we know it will happen.
As it says in the Bible: "We run the race to win." And we have to buffet our bodies in order to do that. I always think about us training. And in a sense we're actually training spiritually, so that when those glory days come, we can be ready and all the better for it.
If you had the opportunity to speak with a young gymnast who wished to grow in his or her faith even while pursuing excellence in the sport, what advice would you give?