Sunday, September 16, 2018

An Athlete’s Truth - AJ Iiames

So I have accidentally deleted one of my previous posts so I am re-posting it now. It's a great read so if you didn't read it the last time I posted it, be sure to check it out now!

I have another incredible article written by another dear friend of mine who is going to share his story about what being Coached in Truth really means to him. He is a phenomenal athlete that has a heart for God and a mindset to bring glory to God's name. It's a story of difficult situation's and overcoming those situations through a Godly perspective. I would like to introduce you all to AJ Iiames and share with you his story of being Coached in Truth.

From the piedmont to the mountains of Asheville, NC, I embarked on an adventure that I will never forget. When I had committed to the University of North Carolina at Asheville, I had no idea what exactly that meant. My way of life would take a dramatic turn. I wanted to mention a couple things that college brought on my spiritual journey as a disciple who happened to be a collegiate athlete.

Three things I learned over my four and a half year career that changed and shaped me were perseverance, self worth, and influence. My mother encouraged me to read the book of Joshua as soon as I reported for preseason before my freshman year of college at UNC Asheville.  In a different world on my own, I decided to take my mother up on that. After Moses’ death, Joshua was called to lead the Israelite people with the promise that God would be with him. One major theme in that first chapter was the repetition of God calling Joshua to be strong and courageous (Joshua 1:6, 7, 9, 18).  I have learned that whenever the Bible repeats itself, God must be trying to teach!  So I took this to heart throughout the preseason and into my first year as a student-athlete. Being an athlete, like what everyone else has said, it is not easy to resist temptation. I was fortunate enough to have two roommates who were there to run the race with me, one of whom was a teammate.  Satan knows when to corner you, when to chase you, and when to devour you.  He is always on the prowl.  I knew that if I were to grow apart from these brothers, that it would only mean death (spiritual).  As crazy and dramatic as that sounds, it is the truth. The inability to attend church functions and bible talks racks up.  The question was “What am I going to do about it?”  Like many of my fellow athletes, defining my career in terms of athletic success was difficult to avoid.  I needed a personal relationship with Jesus, which was not a habit I had forged in high school.  The road was long and at times difficult, but that is where perseverance emerges.
My career was full of physical, emotional, and spiritual perseverance.  By the end of my freshmen year, I had been successful on and off the field; starting most games, contributing to the ministry, and working hard in the classroom.  In the last game of spring season against NC State, the ball got kicked over top our back line and I was in a dead sprint with the offensive player from NC State to win the ball.  As soon as I took a couple steps, I crumbled to the grass in agonizing pain.  I remember thinking to myself: “This surely couldn’t happen to me.  I have only seen this on television.”  Results came back that week stating that I had torn my ACL and my meniscus.  The rest of my career followed a similar pattern.  I tore my ACL in the other knee, and re-tear my meniscus; I had a total of three surgeries to repair everything.  Troubles came my way, but with God, nothing is impossible.  I hung to 2 Peter 1:5-8, which says “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness;  and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.  For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Adding to my faith in a difficult time to have faith was the most important calling for me in this low point.  People and circumstances will always disappoint, but looking to God through those times and choosing to persevere is the key.  It is all about what choice you make. 

Like many of my fellow athletes, defining my career in terms of athletic success was difficult to avoid.  Many of the other athletes have touched on the complexity to which self worth is attributed.  I attributed a lot of self worth to my performance on the field, which led to quick spurts of success and failure.  It is simple in my mind how this all changed: Jesus died.  He didn’t just die for me, but for all who choose to follow Him.  For Him to die so that I could have the chance of life to the full is all that you need to quickly scatter the thoughts of where you are receiving your worth.

I love how all situations and life-events all revolve in a cyclical fashion.  It is the same as sin; how nobody has done something so outlandish that someone else has not yet thought of or done.  I feel this way about the influences we as athletes have on others.  The most influential I felt was when I was going through a hard time on the field or with my faith, and God gave me the words to say.  When I was injured, to serve without expecting return, even if it hurt to give.  I was able to be a light in the darkest of times, whether physically or spiritually.  The biggest lesson I learned, and continue to learn with my walk with God, is to continually pursue God.  He is always reaching out to us, but nothing happens with our influence and actions if he is not at the forefront of our minds and hearts.  I had involved another teammate who happened to be injured for a month or so with a sprained knee.  We were doing the dirty work like moving the goals, putting down cones, doing laundry, etc.  He had a terrible attitude most days with those deeds, but I had submitted to God that service and decided, “why not do this to the best of my ability?”  One time when we were moving a goal, he was complaining again, and I told him, “in order to lead, you need to serve.”  I remember that specifically because he never complained again and went on to co-captain with me the following season.  I’m not providing this example in pride, but it illustrates what influence God can have in other people’s lives if you stand firm in his teachings and humble yourself. 

I wanted to provide a quick shout out to Justin Drabot for creating this awesome outlet for those involved/wanting to get involved in sports.  It’s much more than just playing a sport.  Just another way God can be glorified through us as vessels of Jesus.

AJ Iiames Bio:

I was on the Presidential Honor Roll (over 3.0 for semester) my whole career and captained the team from 2013-2015 (3 seasons).  I played on the defensive line for most of my career.  We played against the likes of UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke, NC State and Wake Forest during my career, which harness some of the top talent in the country.  We beat #6 Coastal Carolina twice in my career as the extreme underdog.  It was a career plagued by injury, but abounding in life knowledge and experience. Here is a glimpse at my stats year-to-year: 

2011: Earned 10 starts and played in 14 contests.
2012: Red-shirted due to injury.
2013: Started and played in 16 matches before missing the last three matches of the year with a knee injury.
2014: Played in eight matches with one start after coming back from knee surgery. 
2015: Started in 15 games.

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