From the time I was two years old, gymnastics was my love, my passion, and my life. For four and a half hours a day, five days a week, I was in the gym: flipping, swinging, and twisting. However, by tenth grade, I didn’t feel the same joy about gymnastics that I previously had, because of the huge time commitment and stress.
Gymnastics set me apart from my peers, so it terrified me to think about losing that as part of my identity. Would I instantly fade into the crowd? After months of a torturous internal tug of war over whether I should continue or quit, I decided that I needed to turn to God for guidance, just as Christian Science Sunday School had been teaching me to do. I felt like I didn’t have a clear idea of what I should do, but I knew that through prayer, I would be led in the right direction.
Gymnastics set me apart from my peers, so it terrified me to think about losing that as part of my identity.
One night, when I was feeling especially dismayed, I flipped open my copy of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy to get some inspiration for my prayers. In the Preface, I read this passage: “To those leaning on the sustaining infinite, to-day is big with blessings” (p. vii). I had been struggling to see which path would lead to more blessings, but after I read this sentence, it occurred to me that no matter which path God led me down, I would still be blessed. Since God is infinite, there really could be no limitations on the good that was in store for me.
Going to sleep, I felt optimistic. And when I woke up the next morning, I felt clear in my decision to end my gymnastics career. No fluttering stomach. No fear for the future. I knew I was experiencing God’s guidance because of the complete harmony and calm that encompassed me.
The next step was to discover who I was beyond gymnastics. This meant getting a new, more spiritual perspective on my identity.
I began my prayers by considering the idea that my identity is God-based, as I’d learned from reading the Bible. First John says, “Now are we the sons of God” (3:2)—the children of God. No sport or decision about my life could change that fact about my identity. I realized that as the child of God, I couldn’t do anything to remove myself from God’s care. Any remaining fear I was feeling dissolved, and a newfound confidence in God took its place.
I began my prayers by considering the idea that my identity is God-based.
I also realized that all of the qualities I’d loved expressing as a gymnast were actually spiritual, so I could take them with me into whatever I was doing. Balance as a gymnast meant effortlessly staying on the beam. Expressing balance in other parts of my life now means being precise and intentional in the way I spend my time. Flexibility as a gymnast meant the ability to do the splits. Now, it means working with what I have and being open to change. Gymnastic strength meant climbing the rope. Now, strength means resilience and the willingness to stand up for myself and the things that are important to me.
I was so grateful to see that because these qualities have their source in God, I can never be without them. And they continue to play a major role in my life as I explore new interests, such as photography and track and field.
Seeing these qualities expressed in new and different ways marked a turning point for me. As I’ve understood more clearly that my identity isn’t based on my activities, but is composed of lasting spiritual qualities, I’ve found myself growing in maturity and feeling a deeper spiritual understanding of God and the way He created me. I’ve realized that my identity hasn’t changed; what’s changed is the way I see myself. Now, instead of attaching my identity to one activity, I lean more on the sustaining infinite to show me all that I am and all that I’m able to do as His child.