Sunday, January 8, 2017

An Athlete's Truth - Sayma Waleh

     I am honored to share a story with you all of a dear friend of mine. Sayma Waleh has been a great friend to me over the years and he has an incredible story to share about how he came to know God and how even though experiencing injury through athletics, he was able to see a new perspective of what was really important to him. He has played High School Football and has ran Track as well! Without further ado, here is his story!

"Unlike most athletes, sports were not an interest of mine growing up. In fact, I hated sports and saw them as a waste of time. As a kid, I would much rather be inside drawing, watching cartoons or playing video games. However as I got older, my perspective on sports changed.
Fast forward to middle school where football games during recess were a big deal. The games looked really fun but I just decided to never join in. One day a group of my friends were playing and needed an extra person. I initially declined but after some convincing I joined and starting playing. To my surprise, I did pretty well. In fact, I was just as fast if not faster than the other kids. From that day on I was hooked. I played football any chance I could get and grew to love the game. I played with kids in my neighborhood, during recess, and even at the bus stop before school. The more I played, the better I got.
That summer, I ran, worked out, and played football in hopes of going of out for the middle school football team. When tryouts came I made the team! It was a great feeling! Being a football player gave me a lot of new attention from teachers and peers alike. I was treated a lot of differently when people saw me with a football jersey; like a good different though. The popular kids, the jocks, and even the pretty girls treated me like I was important. From that time on, I was no longer a shy kid in the back. I was one of the cool kids and all the new attention felt great.
The following year I attended Mallard Creek High School and the same thing happened. It was crazy how much respect and privilege came with being on a team. Around that time I started thinking about the future and took football more seriously. I became a starter at cornerback,  thought about playing college ball, and eventually wanting to be in the NFL. The Summer after my freshman year I continued playing and started studying the bible throughout summer break. I started discovering who God was and wanted to learn more about him. I tried to continue my bible studies but I would continually lose focus keeping up with school and playing sports year round. Practicing football in the summer and fall, and then running track and field in the winter and spring kept me really occupied. I always thought I would learn who God was but at the time my main focus was athletics.
This is all changed during my junior year. During practice, I suffered a hip flexor injury causing me to miss a lot of summer football practice. Until my injury, I did not realize how much of my self worth was in sports. During that time, I started thinking that all the things I was currently chasing were fleeting. Being good at sports and popularity are never permanent. If you base your worth on that you’ll never find satisfaction. Looking back my injury was probably one of the best things that happened. I was able to sit back and gain a lot of perspective on life. My performance in athletics should not define me. I was much more than an athlete and began searching for something more fulfilling. The first place I turned to was God. Through studying the bible I discovered my self worth in God was much more fulfilling than anything this world had to offer.
During my studies, I resonated with scriptures like Romans 5:8, Psalm 62: 5-6, and Romans 8:35-39 which allowed me to see my self worth in something bigger than myself. Later on that year, I kept studying the bible, became a disciple of Jesus, reached out to others, and started leading a weekly bible talk after school. Even though I stopped playing football, I still chose to continue to run track and field because the season was not as time consuming. With a new perspective on sports I went on to place in conference championships and set school records but never put God on the back burner.
From then on my self worth was no longer based on my performance or how others saw me, it would be based on God’s love for me. Which is nothing I could actually earn or lose and was always unconditional. Our self worth is too often based on what other people tell us about ourselves or how they view us. The true authority on our self worth is Jesus Christ. He was blameless, but gave his own life up for us by dying on a cross when we didn't deserve it. That alone should be an illustration of how valuable we really are."

Sayma Waleh

Comment below to let Sayma know you enjoyed his story or if you have any questions for him!

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