People often ask me if pole vaulting is scary.
The average person can’t imagine running full speed towards a stationary object, with a 14 foot stick in their hands. They gasp at the idea of launching themselves over a bar to fall from 15 feet in the air. But for me, that’s the easy part. I’ve never really feared the extreme nature of my sport. I’m an adrenaline junkie, so I put my focus on the thrill of the event, rather than viewing it as a potential danger.
But that doesn’t mean I’m not afraid.
I’m afraid of failure.
I’m afraid of success.
And, I often fear other people’s thoughts about me.
To some, it may seem silly to be so invested in a sport. And, though I am not called to WORRY about my performance, I am called to CARE about it. Because, I believe that God cares about my dreams and uses my athletic endeavors for a purpose that I may never fully grasp.
Even though God has made good on his promises to me time and time again, I often feel like the Israelites who basically cried out saying, “God WHY would you deliver us from Egypt, only to bring us to the desert to die?!”
I made the Olympic Final in 2016 as a clear underdog following six months of injury. That’s a big freakin’ deal. I earned a rare sponsorship contract and started traveling around the world to compete. My naive bliss had me thinking I had finally cracked the code and would have the career I dreamed of over the next Olympic cycle! But it hasn’t been that easy. It’s been kind of like being delivered from Egypt, only to wander in the desert in the face of the Red Sea.
In 2017, I worked harder than I ever had before, but my performance didn’t improve. I showed up to the World Championships in London with a broken foot and a fraction of my confidence. I was so broken and disheartened that I couldn’t even make it down the runway to take a jump. I vividly remember walking out of the stadium alone and contemplating if it might be time to quit. But, God told me to “stand firm”. So, I elected to have surgery on my foot and took an entire year off to recover (2018).
Finally healthy and heading into my 2019 season, I had to make a coaching change. It wasn’t something I wanted to do, it was just a result of unfortunate circumstances. At the time, I was really sad and bitter about it and again, I was whining to God about how unfair it was.
Looking back now, I have to laugh. He’s provided for me in so many ways since that time and has provided healing and understanding where it was needed. He has renewed my passion for my sport and given me access to the coaching and resources I need to be the best athlete I can be!
I can’t tell you that I am not afraid. At times, I am. But that is why this scripture is so important for me. It helps me to reflect on the ways God has delivered me in the past. It reminds me that I can trust him; that he will make good on his promises. I believe God is fighting for me. Not against my competitors or even the bar, but against my own insecurities or false beliefs. He’s fighting against the limitations I’ve put on myself and challenging me to choose hope over fear.
When I can’t see a way forward, he will part the sea for me. Does this mean I will jump higher than ever before? I don’t know! But it does mean he is helping me BELIEVE it is possible. And, I do believe it! In the face of fear, he makes me stronger, more confident, more resilient, and more and more like the person he created me to be.
- Kelsie A