I wrestled with this for quite a time. I read a bit and I saw Ros starting to what I call “gush” with love, starting to really be the person that I married. With the same smile, with the same open arms, with the same unconditional love, no matter what was eaten in the house, no matter who put their underwear where. And I thought, “Hmm. This is very interesting.” But I still couldn’t do it. No way! Not me. I’m John the strong hockey goalie that has this great successful career, that is excited to be in Florida and doing great things and—but I still couldn’t put this Lord first in my life.
And then, this very influential day happened when I sat down with a team chaplain of ours. We just sat down for breakfast and I just said, “I’m wrestling with the fact that I can’t put this God first in my life.” And as the words came out of his mouth, I just felt an ease come over me because it made so much sense. And it went like this, he just said, “You know, the Lord doesn’t want to separate your life from your family. He doesn’t want you to have a monarchy in your family. He just wants to share your love. He wants to be a part of your family. Just to share the unconditional love that his son shared with everybody when he came down and died on a cross for our sins.”
I thought to myself, “He just wants to share? Boy, I can share. Putting up here I don’t know if I can do, but I certainly can share.” And then for me, at that time, my heart opened up. I felt a peace that came into my life that came into my wife’s life earlier. But it wasn’t until about three or four days later that we both went to bed and we had something to say to each other, but we didn’t know how to say it.
Ros just looked at me and she says, “You know, I’ve experienced a change in my life. I don’t know if you’ve noticed.” And I said, “Yeah, I’ve noticed! What are you kidding me?” She said, “You know, I think that I’ve accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior and that he’s the first in my life and I don’t know how you feel about that.” And I just kind of looked at her and I said, “You know what? I think I’m feeling the same way.” And she was like, “What?! Are you kidding me?”
Rosalinde: And what a relief that is, to have my husband beside me and to know that he’s had the same realizations as I have. It was a different experience for both of us, but it was a void that was created in our lives, and it was a void that was filled by the same Christ. And I was talking to our son Ian today and asked him, of course, it I could share how I had felt about him, which is not a very nice thing for a mother to say about her son, but he said, “Sure mom!” He goes, “God’s done wonderful things in our lives.”
And I had said to him, “You know, the reason I didn’t love you as best as I could and the reason I didn’t like to spend time with you is because you weren’t perfect.” And I said, “And I wasn’t perfect either, so that’s why I couldn’t love myself. And that’s what Christ did for me. He told me that I didn’t have to be perfect. That he loved me just the way I am and that I was specially created as a unique individual. And once he taught me how to love myself through his love, then I was able to love you and your brothers and your dad wholeheartedly for the first time in my life. And to love my family and each person I meet up with. There’s a difference in how I look at people.”
Some basic realizations are that God has helped me to go beyond my comfort zone. He keeps helping me step out into those fears that I’ve had for a long time. And that he’s taught me that there are absolute truths and there are rights and wrongs to live by. And that there is a blueprint for life and it’s all there in one book. And it’s just amazing, that the process continues on from day to day and month to month and year to year and there’s something new to be learned, but it’s all there for you.
John: After we shared these thoughts, the influence that we had on each other was immense. And I think that I never really shared Ros’s fears and she never really shared my fears. And once we were able to hop into each other’s lives once again and to experience a spiritual rebirth, things came to be more clear. Whether it was handling our children with the behavior program in our family. Or whether it was for me, to take this new feeling out onto the ice with me.
I want to share with you how influential that is because it is a special thing to feel peace when you’re in what I call combat. A lot of the time, everything is happening so fast. I always looked at the other Christian athletes as being stereotyped as being weak, fragile and they’re going to turn the other cheek, until I found this new found spirit in me and how strong I became and how much it influenced me in a feeling of peace. And at my position as being a goaltender, you can’t go out there and hit anybody. Very rarely do you come in contact with anybody. And you know, you’re the final line. You’re a hero or a goat. And I hate to put it in those terms, but it happens to be that way sometimes.
But I wanted to just be myself. And I saw results in me starting to happen, just by seeing myself a little bit more clearly. But I saw myself through the eyes of God and what a humbling feeling that is. But that influence on the ice led me to take little pieces, little thoughts with me, whether it was a Bible verse or whether it was just something of strength that I could take out there with me.
For an example, one verse that comes to mind that is very influential in me is Philippians 4:13, “I can do anything through him who gives me strength.” I can recall that phrase when I’m out there and concentrate on that. And it gives me such a sense of peace that I can go and perform and know that I can go out there and do the best I can and if I fail, I fail. And I will learn by that, but in the eyes of God that I’ve done the best I can. And that’s what matters most.
It’s something to look back to yourself and feel and know that God has given you a skill and that he works through you to come in contact with others and provides you with a platform in which to do so. Which brings me to wanting to share that with everyone here tonight. I must say that this free gift was offered to me, but I don’t know how many times I turned it down; and that the Lord found me. I didn’t find him. He found me. And how thankful I am for that. He’s carried out through what I do.
On the ice, I find that is now a very very spiritual time out there. It’s uncanny how close you become when you stand alone; stand alone out there in front of thousands of people that on most nights aren’t wishing you the best. But also, the platforms that he’s put in my life, like being able to compete in the Olympics and go to Japan and experience a whole new culture. We went there and we failed miserably, but we were meant to go there to experience that and it was okay. It really was okay.
For myself personally, I went over there and played all of 50 seconds. I have had a lot of people ask me, “Now weren’t you let down by that? Don’t you think that you should have had more of an opportunity?” I said, “Well, I did have an opportunity. I had 50 seconds worth and I did as much as I could in 50 seconds that the Lord would allow.” But I also experienced witnessing the United States’ women’s hockey team win a gold medal, which to me was an awesome sight to watch these 20 women come together to do this and be the first to do it and carry the flag around the ice, it just meant that we were being led to just witness that.
Now, the time is with us now that we move on to new challenges, but I want to share that when we move or wherever we go it’s my thought that with the Lord in my life, I’m always home.
If you are interested in beginning your own personal relationship with God, may I help you with a simple prayer, similar to the one Rosalinde and I prayed. Prayer is simply talking with God. He is more concerned with your heart than with your words. If our words help you communicate your feelings to God, please use them. Pray this prayer with me right now:
“Lord Jesus, I am not sure I understand everything, but I do know I need you. I open my life to you right now. I need your forgiveness. Help me to grow and change. Make me the person you created me to be. Thank you.”
If you have just prayed this prayer I have several suggestions for you. You’ll want to tell someone you trust and respect. Find a church where Christ is honored and the Bible is taught and where you can make new friends who have made the same commitment. Talk with God openly about everything. Read the Bible every day. It’s God’s way of talking to you. If you were not ready to respond to the things we have communicated, may we encourage you to continue exploring. God is more than willing to answer your honest questions. He is anxious to enter a personal relationship with you. Thank you for allowing Rosalinde and me this opportunity to tell you about our own personal journey to God. We hope that your life in turn will help those around you.