Freedom to Compete: An Athlete’s Reflections

Why do I do what I do? God has given everyone special talents, passions, and desires. When I ask myself this question my thoughts naturally revolve around my faith, my community, how I spend my time, and my work. 

For this, we can focus on the topic of work. I wrestle with believing that I am not defined by what I do. I know this in my mind, but in practice I wrestle with striving for excellence while also living in the idea that I am not more special from the results that I create (or rather God helps me experience). I’m constantly asking myself why I want that new project, title, or role. Is it because I think it will make me more significant? Or is it because I’m passionate about the topic and I’m using my skills and interests to honor God? The latter would be the correct answer. 

This theme has remained constant in my life: from my academics and athletics as a kid, to playing on the Duke women’s soccer team competing for National Championships, to living my dream of playing soccer in Europe, to taking jobs in startups.  

All of these thoughts lead into how I got involved in Faith & Work Journey. In college, I was a part of Athletes in Action, a Christian Organization that helps college and pro athletes integrate their faith and their sport. This was one of my first exposures to learning about faith and work. As my transition away from sports and to a traditional desk job came, AIA gave me tools to think about how I could apply the lessons I learned about faith and sport to faith and work. This is when I came upon Faith & Work Journey.

During my F&WJ experience, I began to explore the deeper topics on work. An idea from Every Good Endeavor by the late Tim Keller has specifically stuck with me – God created people to work and the concept of working is inherently good. This means that all roles in a company are valuable. They can all honor God no matter how “important” or “small” they seem. For example, an entry-level analyst who is cleaning the data (my first job) to a CEO or investors making high-level strategic decisions all have a chance to bring glory to God in their work.

Our individual work is a part of a flywheel effect. The work we each do keeps a company moving forward. The company can then generate revenue to pay employees and help their customers. These two aspects help the business contribute to the macro economy providing jobs to others. Sometimes this idea feels far-fetched and less tangible in my day to day but it often brings comfort that my work is valuable to God.

Over the last few years, I’ve tried to share this concept with college athletes who will one day end their sport and enter into a new type of work. I’ve had the opportunity to do this with Athletes in Action and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. I’ve gotten to share what I’ve been learning by co-leading a Bible study for FCA for a few of Stanford student-athletes over the course of last school year and this year. 

We first studied James and how we can use trials and unexpected twists and turns in life to be refined by fire to purify our hearts. Now we are reading Every Good Endeavor. It has been fun to help college athletes think about how to apply the concepts of faith and work to their sport and also to their future careers beyond sports. I pray they can use their gifts and talents to serve God and others while also being reminded that their worth doesn’t come from their stat sheet in their sport or the salary of their first job, but from the fact that they are a child of God. 

How do I bring my competitiveness to the table while I accompany that with the freedom that I am the child of the God of the universe? I am simply loved by God because He loves me and not because of what I do. The more I live into that notion, the more I feel freedom to compete and freedom to take risks.

by Malinda Allen
F&WJ Alumni and Former Experience Operations Manager

Faith & Work Journey is about faith and work integration. We offer spiritual formation and professional development experiences that help Christian professionals cultivate a vital integration of their faith and work. We are a faith-based non-profit Christian ministry. We offer opportunities to learn how to integrate faith & work, what is the relationship between God & work, how to work as a Christian even if you don't work in a Christian workplace, what is the biblical view on employment, what are biblical principles for career success, how to make Christian career decisions, how to approach evangelism in the workplace in a way that honors God and respects your co-workers, and more. Inspired by Redeemer Church's Center for Faith and Work, Gotham Fellowship, Faith Driven Entrepreneur, Faith and Work Movement, and other organizations including faith-based employee resource groups, Faith & Work Journey is designed to equip and empower Christ-following businesspeople to steward faithfully their professional vocations.