I came onto the Spartan Race scene pretty exponentially. I had only a couple races and wins under my belt before I was invited to be a part of the Spartan Pro Team in Spring of 2016. I struggled a bit after that in the bigger NBC races against tougher competition and was going through a lot of personal things in my life including a spiritual battle and really trying to find a life balance between training, family, friends, etc. With the Lord’s guidance, I persevered and had amazing success taking 4th place in the NBC championship series and 4th place at Spartan Race World Championships in my rookie season! Then came the off-season. I was injured and felt a tremendous amount of pressure to push harder in order to be even better than I was the year previous. I went from being the dark horse to everyone expecting me to be one of the best this year. I got calls to do photoshoots, sponsorships, lots of promotion and was now the real deal. On the one hand, it was all pretty cool! I felt so blessed for my success and to be known like that. On the other hand, as an athlete whom others are looking up to, I now felt the pressure of everyone else’s expectations. Once I realized that I had actually become influential and a role model to people, I felt the responsibility to constantly embody that. At the same time, I had no idea how to come back from this injury and to be the person everyone wanted me to be. I didn’t really know how to move forward and step into this person God was calling me to be. My identity was shaken. I started comparing myself to everyone else. I wanted to be free and go do my own races and adventures, but I was injured and had no idea how to cross train for optimal performance while recovering. If I didn’t have Spartan, what did I have? Who was I really?
People typically identify themselves by the roles (i.e., parent, businessman, athlete, writer, etc.) they find most important to themselves or others. Which is fine. We all have our roles, and God made us each for different purposes (Rom 12:6). I don’t think I was meant to be a pastor who ministers to people through public speaking, and that’s okay with me. The key is to remember we are God’s first and foremost. Our true identity lies in our salvation through Him. From there, it’s allowing Him to use us where we are needed.
I remember when I started hating my real, retail job, but I knew that’s where He needed me at the time. I needed to be uncomfortable to grow and to try to be a blessing in everyone’s path that I came across. Likewise, now that I am in Spartan, I have this platform on which I can share His word and glory by being an example of His love. And I am not going to be a Spartan Racer forever; I will have a new identity where He needs me next. The key is to trust Him and allow Him to use us wherever we are and in whatever situation we are in… whether it’s good or bad.
“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.” -Proverbs 16:9
I want readers to take away from this post that your true identity should lie in God first. Everything else will fall into place when you truly know that He sought you out and saved you. He has amazing plans for you because you are more than a conqueror through Him (Rom. 8:37). So embrace the role in which He has you. Allow Him to work in every situation you find yourself in, and watch some amazing things happen as a result!
Alyssa Hawley is a 2017 Spartan Pro Team member living in Spokane, Washington.