Playing professional soccer for Major League Soccer (MLS) at the highest level in America over the past eight years has, without question, been a huge accomplishment of mine. Little did I know growing up that, one day, I would be living my dream as a professional soccer player!
While it would be easy for me to list all of my soccer achievements, these accomplishments do not define me. Others will be drafted higher than I, trophies will fade, records will be broken, and our championship teams will long be forgotten. These achievements have taught me invaluable lessons that have and will continue to shape my life in the years to come, but they are temporary and fleeting. Come to think of it, I have no idea where that gaudy MLS Cup Championship ring is anyway.
We are what we do, right? Wrong?
Really, we are who God says we are, children of the one, true God. But we get this thing called “identity” mixed up and confused all too often.
“Howdy! My name is Wells Thompson! I am a professional soccer player.”
That’s great and all, but soccer is what I do, not who I am.
God has used soccer to bless my life in countless ways and given me this platform to use as a vessel to make His name famous. It has been an amazing journey. Soccer is my job, my profession, and how I provide for my family; but it is not my identity. It is not what defines me. What defines me is that I am a follower of Jesus.
It took me a long time to realize this. God had to break me of my identity as a soccer player over and over again. And just when I think I have finally surrendered to Him and placed my identity in Christ Jesus, I find myself falling back into the trap that the world wants me to believe. This is a battle that I fight every day; one that we all fight.
I understand more and more that this life isn’t about me. As a professional athlete, people aspire to be like me simply because of what I do. But I always say kicking a ball around doesn’t make me any more special than the guy next door. What does make me special is that I try to point people to Jesus.
John 3:30 says, “He must increase. I must decrease.” This is one of my “go-to” verses that helps me keep an eternal perspective.
Bottom line: Jesus changed my life, rocked my heart and world, and I am staking all that I am—my whole life—to follow Him! I was raised in a Christian home and spent my whole life in Church, but there is a huge difference between living out your parents’ beliefs versus discovering the indescribable joy, unending love, and unfathomable glory of Jesus Christ through a personal relationship with Him.
When I was drafted to play professional soccer up in the Boston area in New England, I learned quickly that not everybody loves Jesus and some even hate Him. As a kid from the Bible Belt who spent his whole life close to home, that was a huge shock. But it was exactly what I needed. It was the turning point in my life. It challenged me to make my faith my own. It was the motivation I needed to seek Christ and ultimately discover that He is who He says He is—the Messiah!