Growing up, if someone were to introduce me to you, they probably would say “This is Jayne. She loves her family and basketball. She is from Lancaster, PA and is a really happy and optimistic person. She is tall (6’2”) and is a very hard worker. She is determined and sometimes stubborn. She has some really good friends, but the people she enjoys time with the most are her family. She is a “good girl” and doesn’t really like to break the rules or disappoint people, so she tries REALLY hard not to.”
To be honest, I was pretty proud of that description - these were the things I let define me. My identity was wrapped up in keeping that image. But there was something missing. That identity was all about ME. All the focus, emphasis, pressure and reliance were on JAYNE.
I didn’t know it, but I was a prisoner to a lie. I was in bondage to the belief that God’s love and my worth are based on performance. I am learning that I’m not alone in that struggle. It’s a pretty common lie that people, especially athletes, fall into. Thankfully God is all about redemption and has been teaching me the TRUTH! He has been helping me understand that because of the power of His love and the power of His blood, I am forgiven and unconditionally loved. My only responsibility is to TRUST and have faith in Him and He takes care of the rest. If I am faithful to seek Him and follow Him, HE will transform me from the inside out. Him showing me this really began when I was in college and now I have the privilege of sharing that with other athletes!
For as long as I can remember I respected God. I went to church and heard enough about Him, to know that I wanted to please Him. But I didn’t truly know how to please Him. I thought I could earn His approval by working hard, doing lots of “good things”, making people happy & keeping the “bad things” to a minimum. I had no idea that this way of doing life had me on a trajectory to a lifetime of being a nice girl who would constantly be in fear of not measuring up or falling short and ultimately doing just that…falling short/ missing the mark. My eyes started to open to this while I was part of a bible study for athletes at University of Delaware.
“And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into the level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them.” (Isaiah 42:16)
FREEDOM WAS COMING!
A goal that I had for a long time was to earn a basketball scholarship for college. This was another place that my identity/ self worth had been focused. Not that there is anything wrong with that goal, its just that I had placed the goal, the dream, higher then God. It had become an idol and I didn’t know it. Although I thought my primary purpose at Delaware was for doing great things in basketball, God had a different plan…something way bigger then anything I had dreamed of.
My freshman year I was doing everything in my power to make good grades and to excel in hoops. Although I was giving it everything I possibly had, I wasn’t getting the “results” I wanted. I felt handcuffed. This continued for 2 years…me striving and struggling and falling into pits that I just couldn’t navigate on my own. My struggle wound up resulting in some crummy choices and life style junk that I had no clue how I wound up in. As I look back I am in awe of God and His mercy. I am so thankful for how He brought me through those dark times and how His Light shown into the pits and His loving Presence pulled me out of them!
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:11-13).
I had started going to a bible study for athletes as a way of “making some good friends”. I started to realize that there was something different about these friends…they had something that I sensed I was missing, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on “what it was.” I started doing what I always did when I wasn’t getting the results I wanted...I tried harder. That wasn’t working so well in this though. The harder I tried, the more it felt like I was drowning. The thing I wanted most desperately was peace.
God used several very special people to help me understand more about what it means to have a personal relationship with Him and how to experience peace and forgiveness through trusting in HIS grace instead of my own strength and striving. They helped me to begin to understand 1) how to live for Christ daily and 2) that the Bible is His love letter to me. I began to try to read it more and learn how to apply it to my life with the Holy Spirit’s help not just my own will power. Over time my understanding of Jesus and His character was moving from my head to my heart.
I don’t know exactly when it was that it all came together, but I will never forget this one especially sweet moment in the journey. It was during a summer running workout. It was this “A-Ha Moment” when I was thinking, “Ya know, I never tell God that I love Him? I DO, but I don’t know that I’ve ever really talked to Him like that?” So, I did! Right then. It was the most refreshing and exhilarating feeling I could imagine.
Now, life didn’t all get fixed in that moment. I didn’t all of a sudden know how to navigate the junk that I had been battling. But, I did feel a new sense of peace and hope in the storm. Since then the journey has been amazing and intense. God continued to use sports ministry to guide me in drawing closer to Him and connected me with Athletes in Action, which was a HUGE part of my faith foundation and learning to be discipled.
In fact having someone disciple me was so transformational that I felt like there was nothing I wanted more than to share that gift with other young women. Having someone equip me, guide me and encourage me in my faith journey! WOW! That’s why I joined staff with AIA. God used the experience He blessed me with to call me to serve Him full-time.
Now God is allowing me to share the sweetest gift I have ever been given with other young women. Joining staff with Athletes in Action has been God’s instrument to deepen my faith, but also serve Him at the same time. As if that’s not blessing enough, I also met the man of my dreams (ahem…KYLE!) while serving with AIA. Having gotten married and now getting to have some more sweet blessings through our children (Anderson & Leisel!) we have had some pretty incredible (and also challenging) adventures along the way. The Lord has lead us to serve Him in Ohio (Wright State University), North Carolina (UNC and Duke), in Sydney, Australia, and at the University of Missouri. We've also enjoyed helping lead some short term projects through AIA in Los Angeles, Colorado, Brazil, and East Asia. We are REALLY excited for and anticipating what He will continue to do in and through us at the University of Wisconsin!
It’s a honor to get to have a front row seat for and a small part in what God is doing in the lives of athletes and coaches! Some of my favorite parts of our ministry are loving on people and hosting them in our home and doing life together. Getting to show them faith in action. Helping them see that the Bible applies to real life and God cares about EVERY detail of their lives. To that end, I also especially enjoy one on one discipleship or small groups where we dig into the Word and figure out what is going on in their lives and see what God has to say about how He wants to help us lean on Him through it. These relationships are always a highlight for me, but also keep me dependent on the Lord because I cannot navigate them on my own.