Kelly Clark won bronze at this year's Winter Olympics, the only snowboarder ever to win three medals. (She won gold in 2002 and bronze in 2010). When she won her gold medal, she was the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic team. Three years later, she won first place at the World Cup. But her life was as dark as her athletic prospects were bright.
"I achieved the highest in my sport. I was famous," she says. "I had money. I had an Olympic gold medal. Everything that anyone could have wanted, and I found out that wasn't what I was looking for." She turned to drinking and partying, but nothing filled the void in her soul.
What happened? "I had spiraled into this depression and into this place that was just real dark. I was at this contest, and I was staying by myself. I spent the morning writing about how I didn't want to live anymore and how it wouldn't even matter." She was standing at the bottom of the pipe (the semi-circular snow-covered area where athletes in her sport compete) when four words changed her life: "This girl comes down, and she's crying 'cause she fell on both of her runs and she didn't qualify. This other girl goes up to her, [and] I'm standing there. They didn't know anybody was listening. She was like, 'Hey, it's all right. God still loves you.' I was blown away. If there's a God who loves me, like, I need to know Him.
"She was staying at my hotel, and I found out what room number she was in. So that night I knocked on her door. She told me about having a relationship with Jesus, and she started telling me that was what it was about. My Creator wanted a real relationship with me, and He loved me very much."
After thinking about what she heard, Kelly made a decision: "I gave my life to the Lord that day. It was pretty cool. The Lord really apprehended me at that point." How has her faith changed her life? "Now having a relationship with the Lord, I find that there's a lot more freedom in snowboarding for me. I'm just so in love with Him. Every time I think about Him I have to tell Him I love Him 'cause I'm head over heels. He makes me smile."
The next time you're discouraged about your apparent inability to change the moral direction of our culture, remember Kelly Clark's story. "God still loves you," overheard at a snowboarding competition, led her to become one of the mostvisible and vibrant Christian witnesses in athletics today. God promises that his word "shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it" (Isaiah 55:11).
So speak his truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) and expect the Holy Spirit to use your words and life to change someone's eternal trajectory. Is there a greater privilege in life?
Publication date: February 19, 2014