I grew up in a Catholic family in a suburb of the Twin Cities. We went to church together most Sundays and listened to the priest read to us from the Bible, but I don’t remember ever hearing a distinct articulation of the gospel or any discussion of a personal relationship with the God of the universe.

In my understanding, Jesus was just one of many characters in the Bible. I didn’t factor his life, death, and resurrection into my chances of making it to heaven. I basically just relied upon my own performance— whether athletic or academic. If I could be good enough, then I could earn my way. In reality, I was desperately fighting to maintain my outward appearance of humility and perfection, when inwardly I was in denial about how broken and sinful I was.

In college, a few of my teammates on the Rowing team at the U of M were involved in Campus Outreach. I studied the Bible with my friend Rachel a few times, but when she told me about God’s steadfast love for me, it fell on deaf ears. I thought that if I had the approval of everyone around me, I had all the love I needed. It wasn’t until I heard my friend Lindsey speak at an FCA meeting a few years later that I finally felt truly exposed. As she shared her own story I felt like a light was turned on for the first time. The façade of my perfection and humility was seen for what it was. I saw my own sin so clearly. She went on to read from Isaiah 43: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” The entire chapter seemed to be directed like a laser right into my heart. God knew all of my sin, and he claimed me anyway. He didn’t just see me as a nameless number among millions. He called me by name and offered me forgiveness and redemption. I read this passage over and over for a week and each time it chipped away at the walls I had built up. God broke me down and brought me low so that I could finally see my own desperation. I surrendered my life to Christ.

In the few years since trusting my life to Jesus, he has proven his faithfulness in the good times and in the bad. I have found that the gospel is sweeter to me every time I hear it articulated by someone else, or when I encounter it in his Word. The Lord has given me a heart for coaching and mentoring young athletes, and in such a dynamic and unstable job arena, I have found comfort in verses like Psalm 138:8, “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.” He has provided for me, and he promises to be with me forever.

Ryan Leichty