From Meathead to Missionary – Part 1

“I’m just curious. How does someone who was a total meathead in college become a missionary?”  That was the most often asked question I encountered upon returning to my 10-year reunion at the Air Force Academy.  It’s a reasonable question, especially if you knew me in college. All I really cared about was playing football, hanging out with my buddies, and having as much fun as I possibly could on the weekends.

Is There More To Life Than Sports?

Growing up in a small town in Idaho, sports were my life.  From football in the fall to wrestling in the winter to baseball in the spring and summer, sports were it.  Now as a good Catholic family my parents made sure that we got to Mass on Sunday, but all I could really think about was the sports event that happened that weekend.  God bless my parents!  I can’t even imagine the hours they racked up sitting in bleachers, shuttling to practices and games and running back to the house because I forgot something.  All I really wanted was to play Division I sports somewhere and for my parents to not have to pay for my education.   Not receiving any offers to play anywhere, my backup was walking on to play at the Air Force Academy.

The Meathead Years

 I walked-on to the football team and my nucleus of friends at the Academy consisted of football, rugby, hockey, soccer and basketball players and a few of our roommates.  What that basically equated to was a bunch of meatheads.  We were a rowdy group that liked to have fun and lived for the weekend.  During this time I pretty much stopped going to Mass and to be honest it wasn’t even really on my radar.

Knocking Down the Tree

 Looking back I can see how God was knocking down this fictitious strong oak I had always thought I was.  Having pride as my roots and self-reliance and self-preservation as my protective bark, this tree was only a few storms away from coming down.  Football was a struggle.  I tore my ACL my freshman year, season ending surgery. Partially tore it again my sophomore year and severed my meniscus, season ending surgery.  Came back strong my junior year to find no one really knew who this walk-on was.  Then one of the hardest moments of my life, at the end of my junior year I was cut from the team.  For someone who only lived for sports, had never been cut from anything, this was a huge blow and tore up some deep roots.  That spring I went on to play Rugby only to tear my ACL again.  Senior year I focused on rehabbing my knee and graduating. Not playing any sports for the first time in my life was hard, could I still consider myself as an athlete, where I rooted my identity for so many years?  This strong oak was swaying.

The Final Storm

After being stripped of my identity as an athlete, I searched for it in a relationship.  I started dating a girl, and I never realized how attached I had become to her until she kicked me to the curb; another huge blow to my ego and the final storm that uprooted this oak.  My world was collapsing around me, I was miserable.  It was the dead of winter in Boston, I hated my job, my grandmother who I was close to was dying of Alzheimer’s, I had been making a lot of poor decisions that I was ashamed of and on top of it all I refused to acknowledge that I was hurting from this breakup.

A Seed Was Planted

I remember coming home from work one day fed up with my life, fed up with feeling depressed.  I remember dropping to my knees and as an act of desperation I asked God to take control of my life because I was failing.  The skies didn’t open up, there weren’t any lights, or noticeable differences in how I felt, but it was that day that I opened up the soil of my heart and a seed was planted and things began to change.

“I will sprinkle clean water over you to make you clean; from all your impurities and from all your idols I will cleanse you. I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  I will put my spirit within you so that you walk in my statutes, observe my ordinances, and keep them.  You will live in the land I gave to your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God.” – Ezekiel 36:25-28

 Be sure to catch part two coming soon highlighting:

Boston to LA

How Baghdad changed everything

Protestant to Catholic

Discerning the Priesthood

Finally finding my vocation at last

ALL FOR LOVE,

Erik

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~ by martinsonmission on October 14, 2013.

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