Bigger Goals

by Jeremy V. Jones

Stephanie Lopez looked around the field at the girls warming up. Wow, these girls are amazing! she thought. I can’t do this.

The 11-year-old loved playing soccer with her friends, but now she was trying out for a competitive team. She found her dad and started crying. Fortunately, he realized they were at the wrong field—these girls were three years older than Stephanie. Phew!

She found the right field and made the team.

Ups and Downs

Fast forward to 2007. At 21, Stephanie earned a spot as a starting defender on the U.S. Women’s National Team. She played almost every minute as the U.S. won the World Cup. But one year later, she was surprised to not make the final roster for the 2008 Olympics. National teams can be tough like that. Olympic rosters only allow 18 players.

Before the Olympics began, Stephanie was back on the team after another player got injured. The United States won gold, but the experience taught Stephanie an important lesson.

“I didn’t want it to be difficult,” Stephanie Cox says (she’s married now). “I thought it should be smooth and easy. But now that I look back, I’m really grateful that God is so much bigger than us and that He doesn’t just care about the number of games we start. He cares about the character He’s building inside of us and that He’s glorified.”

Today, Stephanie is still part of the national team. She hasn’t been included in every tournament, and sometimes she’s had to sit on the bench. But that doesn’t keep her from working hard in practice to be the best she can.

It’s also helped her realize how much God wants to use her as an encouragement to her teammates, no matter how many minutes she’s playing. One way Stephanie does that is by helping to coordinate a Bible study for national team players.

Stephanie was not included in the London 2012 roster. But she trusts God’s plans for her are best no matter what.

“I would love to be out there on the field,” she says. “But I’ve realized I just need to enjoy every day.”

She leaves this advice for Clubhouse readers: “Definitely make sure you have fun. Put yourselves in a team situation where you can be challenged so you can grow. If you put people in your life who can help you—coaches, parents, siblings or friends—then you can go far.”

Click here to read Stephanie's testimony.

Check out more Olympians for Jesus!

This article first appeared in the July 2012 issue of Focus on the Family Clubhouse magazine. Copyright © 2012 by Focus on the Family. Used by permission. Photo courtesy of Athletes in Action.