These five words used to drive me crazy. I know they’ve comforted an infinite number of people and I respect that. I appreciated the “let God” portion of the quote. But what does it mean to just “let go”? How can I just let go of something that is so important to me? Am I supposed just to stop caring?
“Let go and let God.” -unknown origin
The phrase just never seemed practical to me. Yes, it’s a beautiful concept. I just couldn’t figure out how to effectively put it to use. A piece of me was angry that I kept hearing it. I figured that since I couldn’t understand it, the people who were saying it also couldn’t grasp its meaning.
The phrase had just become one of the meaningless religious quotes people say to sound like they’ve got the Christian walk all figured out. Not genuine.
Then things began to change.
You don’t have to identify with a religion or even as a spiritual person to reap the benefits of connecting with a greater purpose. It’s straight science. Successful people are motivated by a greater purpose. For me, that greater purpose is found in Christianity. It’s what makes sense to me. I’ve gotten to experience the power of God’s saving grace.
That being said, I don’t judge anyone who has found their greater purpose in a different area. That’s not what this blog is about. I must forewarn you; it’s not possible for me to continue with my story without speaking about God’s work in my life.
It took a lot of background work for me to gain an appreciation of the greater purpose. For those of you unfamiliar with Christianity, the greater purpose is to share the good news via word of mouth and loving actions. Simply put, the good news is that Christ offered himself as a perfect sacrifice to redeem our sins and unify us with God.
Everybody is gifted differently, but I’ve always felt more compelled to share this news by loving on other people. I’m thankful for the bold speakers who can verbally articulate this miracle to others, but I connect my greater purpose with sharing the love of Jesus via actions.
Here’s the catch. Since childhood, this greater purpose has been at least a part of my life. As I earned more athletic accolades and became more obsessed with my Olympic dreams, the importance of this greater purpose became less and less. My desperation and the environmental change began to reverse this cycle.
It started out with my coach’s encouragement to find peace. I took that advice and joined a church (as if it’d be that simple). The outside eye may not have known my struggle or the pain, but God did. He knew my heart.
He knew that I was vulnerable. He knew I was utterly discouraged from grasping for worldly success. I was trapped, lost, and hopeless and He knew. Most importantly, He knew I was ready.
I was ready to let Him into my life in a whole new way. For that full first year in Phoenix, I was captivated by the Bible. I desired to learn more and more. I was on a quest for information. In fact, I was having a hard time studying for my Master’s degree comprehensive final exam because I wanted to be reading the Bible instead. I’d never been interested in reading the Bible like this before.
My boyfriend (Kyle) and I joined a small group within the church. In our weekly gatherings, we would dive deeply into a particular book of the Bible. We’d spend time applying the lessons to our lives. After this discussion, we’d end in prayer (which was very uncomfortable at first).
My life was changing. My greater purpose was reignited and stronger than I’d ever experienced. I had a deep desire to live for Jesus, but I wasn’t willing to compromise any of my goals to do so.
As we approached the end of our first year, a couple of big decisions came our way. First, Kyle got offered a job back in Texas. He wasn’t going without me, but it was hard to turn down. We mentally prepared to make our next move.
Meanwhile, I was limping through another international meet before seeing an expert Canadian doctor. My hip had returned to it’s original injured state within a few weeks of coming to Phoenix. We were finally going to fix it with a process called PRP. Following the procedure, I headed back to Pennsylvania to spend time with my family and recover.
On July 3rd, my whole family was gathered by the firepit when Kyle surprisingly walked into my backyard (he was supposed to be in Phoenix). I jumped up and hugged him only to get gently pushed away. It confused me. Then I realized he was making room to get down on one knee. Within a minute of his arrival, he had asked me to marry him. I was shocked (and said yes).
I didn’t expect that to happen for a few more years, but I certainly wasn’t disappointed. Kyle made it clear that the next time we made a big move, it would be as a married couple. He turned down the Texas job offer to stay in Phoenix. He had seen too many positive changes in this environment and wanted to continue the process.
I was equally motivated. I wanted to overcome this eating disorder before entering into marriage. Wanting to be able to give him all of me, rather than the food-obsessed, work-out-obsessed, cloudy version of me.
The Process Continues
God was the answer. He frees us all from the chains of sin. I felt so chained, and I was a little disappointed that I wasn’t miraculously healed from the eating disorder in that year of studies. I took the next step and approached my small group leader about Biblical Counseling.
Over the next few months, we dissected scripture and personally applied it. We looked for a deeper heart issue than the eating disorder itself. It was pretty clear that my motives were centered around personal achievement. My idol was a success and personal glory. God was important to me, but not as important as my own goals still. I wasn’t trusting Him with my plans.
I also learned that my habits weren’t excusable. God had given me this body, this temple, and I was abusing it. I wasn’t a good steward of this gift.
I did every piece of “homework,” joined numerous Bible studies, memorized scripture, and fought to take my thoughts captive, but the eating disorder remained. Having learned a ton about the character of God, and I wanted Him to be my center.
It just wasn’t happening. Again, I started to feel hopeless. I knew all this stuff about God, and I still wasn’t able to discipline myself into eating properly. Was I too far gone?
There was a piece missing. I traveled home for Christmas. I sat next to my mom with tears running down my face thinking that I’ll never be free from this. I was choosing these harmful patterns over God. The guilt was hard the bare. My mom stopped me. I’ll never forget these (paraphrased) words.
“God is not looking down from above and angrily shaking his head at every mistake you make. He is up there sharing tears with you and hugging you. You are his child.”
Poof. Everything was fixed. Nah, I’m just kidding. But seriously, her words clicked with me. I kept thinking about them. God is on my team. He’s not against me or my dreams. My thoughts about Him changed.
When I thought about him like this, the God who is hurting over my pain rather than rolling his eyes at my mess-ups, I could feel His love. His love led to trust. I wasn’t trusting Him beforehand because I wasn’t grasping the depth of his love for me.
This process took months, but eventually, my trust in God was established. A sports psychologist helped me weave this idea into my athletic dreams. We split life into three categories: protective child (driven, to-do list side), wonder child (playful and adventurous side), and hurting child (emotional and spiritual side). When the three are in balance, you are in balance.
My problem was that protective child was controlling my life. The rigid routines of eating and working out had blocked me from listening to the other two sides. So I intentionally made time for the other two every day. My new comprehending of God was vital. I could process my emotions, remind myself of the truths of the Bible, and turn to God in prayer for help in the application.
Simultaneously, my wonder child was speaking some hard truths to me. I didn’t want to do the heptathlon. I just felt like I needed to because I needed to be an Olympian. If I let go of that “need” and just listened to my heart, my true desire was to hurdle. That’s where I felt most free running around the track.
I made the decision. I talked to my coach, and he fully supported it. Since that day, I’ve never felt controlled by the eating disorder again. No, it wasn’t a “poof” moment. In fact, it was the opposite of “poof.” It was long, difficult process of learning to trust God and listen to my heart. “Let go and let God.” It finally made sense to me.
How do you let go of something? How do you let God take over? I can’t answer that for you. It’s a journey between you and God, but if you open your heart, He will guide you. I’m not suggesting it’s easy or magical. It takes a lot of work, reflection, and trust. No one is too far gone.
Even if you have a different greater purpose, the power of belief can lead you through hard times. The culture of athletics is selfish. It teaches you always to put yourself first to reach your goals.
I warn you; you cannot be fulfilled like this. In fact, if you can use your sport as a platform for your greater purpose, you’re more likely to reach those athletic goals anyways.
Take some time to think about what it looks like to “let go and let God” in your life.