Fall 2021 SS Magazine

INCREASE STORY: Joyful No Matter What - Ali Aguilar

Ali Aguilar is a 25-year-old infielder for the U.S. Olympic softball team, which recently won a silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics. A softball star at the University of Washington before joining the U.S. national team in 2016, Aguilar has won gold medals with USA Softball at the 2016 and 2018 World Championships, as well as the 2017 and 2019 Pan American Games. Below, she shares about how she aims to see Christ increase in her life.

I used to eat, breathe and sleep softball. But when God was introduced to my life and became my life, softball no longer defined me. God’s plans and the ability He’s given me in softball are why I play. I see His hand in every part of my journey. Embodying the character of Christ is my end goal; it’s not just about winning a gold medal. I want to let the light of Christ shine through me.

Softball and baseball are the biggest failure sports. If you want to test your heart, play softball or baseball. But they’re also very exciting. We as athletes put a lot of pressure on ourselves to succeed, so I have to constantly check myself and see where my heart is. If I’m so upset about my performance, what does that say about where my hope is placed? The failures, even though I want to avoid them as much as possible, allow me to see God more clearly. He’s the one sure thing; He’s my hope. He’s not upset if our record is 0-3.

Seeing God through my failures has allowed me to play more freely. And each time I am let down in a game, I can run to Him and say, “God, heal my heart in this so that You’re my No. 1 again.”

I love how, in the Bible, Paul says he has learned to be content in every circumstance. In Philippians 4:12-13 he says, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

It didn’t matter what Paul had. Likewise, it doesn’t matter how I or my team is doing, I’m learning to find that contentment and steadfastness in Christ at all times because my hope is in Him. I have the one thing my heart desires every day. It truly doesn’t matter what circumstances I find myself in. I have Jesus. Going into each game, I want to remain content in Christ, not in the game.

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“There’s a lot of pressure in softball and, of course, in the Olympics. God is showing me that I’m playing this game with Him, and I’m enjoying the game with Him at each moment. Yes, the stakes are high and we want to win every game we play, but at the end of the day He calls us to be joyful in all circumstances.” — Ali Aguilar 

Ali Aguilar

Ali Aguilar competes in the World Cup of Softball championship game, July 9, 2017. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

I will often look over at my teammates after training and ask them to go get ice cream just so we can talk and share our hearts. To have a few teammates and close friends whom I trust is huge. I can share with them the fact that I’m struggling with my contentment and performance, and then I let them speak life over me. Instead of staying in my room, I choose to be vulnerable.

It seems like on every trip we take as a team we have one moment when we all come together and share what’s going on. We’ve also had moments in games when we pray over teammates who are hitting, or over each other in the field, or as someone is going up to bat. Having the comfort of camaraderie in Christ among your teammates is super helpful and keeps us grounded in Christ, instead of getting caught up in the pursuit of winning.

Recently, God has been introducing me to the meaning of beauty. In 1 Peter 3, we read that we are not to let our beauty be outward only. For some reason, as I get older, I feel more pressure to be a certain type of woman. But what the world sees as beautiful and what God sees as beautiful are very different. There is something so beautiful about the inward character of a gentle, quiet spirit. God commands us to be filled with love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. My eyes are being opened to what true beauty looks like in the eyes of God. Being fearless is beautiful. Being joyful is beautiful. Being loving is beautiful.

I want to be joyful in all circumstances. There’s a lot of pressure in softball and, of course, in the Olympics. God is showing me that I’m playing this game with Him, and I’m enjoying the game with Him at each moment. Yes, the stakes are high and we want to win every game we play, but at the end of the day He calls us to be joyful in all circumstances. It’s a command.

No matter what happens in the game of softball, I’m completely joyful. Yes, I take the game seriously because I want to win, but I’ll always have a smile on my face.

— Ali Aguilar, U.S. Olympic softball player

Created and led by pro athletes, The Increase is a ministry on mission to see all athletes, coaches, fans and people everywhere have an Increase experience with Christ as found in John 3:30. For more stories, videos and resources to help you discover that the best life is found as we die to self and live for Jesus, visit TheIncrease.com.

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