Pressing Closer to God
Janie Reed is a 28-year-old outfielder for the U.S. Olympic softball team, currently competing in the Tokyo Olympics. A softball star at Oregon before joining the U.S. national team in 2015, Reed has won gold medals with USA Softball at the 2016 and 2018 World Championships, as well as the 2017 and 2019 Pan American Games. She's married to professional baseball player Jake Reed. Below, Janie shares about what the past year has been like enduring the pandemic and resulting isolation, and also how she aims to see Christ increase in her life.
If someone would have told me that the NBA, the MLB, the NCAA Tournaments, all of college sports, and the Olympics were all going to be put on hold, I wouldn’t have believed them. Not in our lifetime, not in our country. It truly was unprecedented.
When the news first came out last year that the Tokyo Olympics were being postponed, I thought it was the best thing they could have done. Watching the news, I had prepared myself for this to happen, and I couldn’t help but think about other athletes, such as track and field athletes, who hadn’t yet had their qualifiers. Not being able to train would have made it unfair for them. For us, new information was coming out every day, so we had to learn to just take it one day at a time, unsure when or even if our softball season would begin.
But through the pandemic, God really grabbed my attention and helped me realize what’s truly important in life. I saw Him bringing about a lot of purposeful heart-change during COVID.
It’s been humbling to think that our plans are not as set in stone as we sometimes think they are. We may think some plans are up to God, but some of our own plans can’t be touched. Think again. Nothing is as firm as we think it is — nothing except God. The pandemic deepened my trust in Him. Thankfully in the midst of all the unknown, I know there really is Someone so much bigger and mightier who is in control of the universe.
Going through times of fear or disappointment is not easy, but we can know God will use those times to produce perseverance in us. It’s up to us to decide if we are going to use these situations to find joy, knowing God has a lot of fruit to produce in us as a result. We can become so comfortable in the lives we create for ourselves that we often don’t realize all the mini idols we hold in our hearts. It could just be that the most loving thing our God can do is force us to be removed from those comforts. In fact, it would be unloving for Him to allow us to continue in a pattern of always wanting more for ourselves.
For me, the isolation was uncomfortable. Even before COVID, I think we were already isolating ourselves through technology. Then the government physically socially-distanced us, which made it even more difficult to connect with others. Thankfully, in the absence of a spring season last year, I was able to stay very connected to others, joining an online Bible study with some friends, staying in touch with our Church on the Dirt ministry community, and reconnecting with some college connections. When we were physically forced to be apart, we just learned how to use technology for a better purpose — for creating community instead of hiding from it.
I feel so blessed to have such a spiritual powerhouse of women around me, but I need to stay connected to them. They help keep me accountable, and I can do the same. Whether it's a mentor of mine or someone I'm mentoring, others can see from the outside what we’re going through, and speak truth to areas we may be blinded to. But our mentors can only be as close to us as we let them be. We must stay connected and close to those who can speak truth into our lives. We need people who can kick us in the butt in a loving way.
"The thought of missing out on His voice in my life saddens me. But in order for the voice of God to increase in my life, I need to decrease the wants and distractions I’ve allowed to creep in." — Janie Reed
Thinking that others may not have a similar community has been really heavy on my heart. It’s caused me to think, whether I’m on the road, in a hotel room or at home, I need to carry my prayer list with me wherever I go. During the time of isolation we all experienced, I became persistent in prayer more than ever. When I’m alone in my house, I’ve learned to just walk around and pray about things, anything, and believe God for the things I pray. Doing this has unlocked so many things in my spiritual walk; I’ve felt a really close intimacy with God that I was lacking.
Ultimately, my constant prayer is that Christ is on display in my life, and increasing Christ in my life has multiple meanings for me. There is the aspect of putting God first in my day-to-day life and being intentional about getting quietly alone with Him regularly. The more you spend time with someone or do something, the more that will increase in your life. I find this to be so true in my relationship with God. And then, since we are one-track-minded beings most of the time, other things in my life tend to decrease in significance.
Many times, as I go about my day, there are certain things I want to do or choose, but it takes intentionality to choose what I know would be the way of following Christ. Yet the more I make these decisions, the more second-nature following Him becomes for me.
Being like Christ means putting others first, which is totally counter-cultural. Our world is all about “do what’s best for you,” but when we choose to inconvenience ourselves and do what’s best for someone else, people take notice. The more we do these things, even if that means just staying late after practice to pick up equipment, the more people will see glimpses of Jesus’ character. Christ will be displayed in our lives. In John 13:34-35, Jesus says, “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Distractions to this lifestyle come from all angles and all different sources. Something that’s been weighing heavily on my mind this past year is how much time I spend on meaningless things such as my phone screen or social media. I want to be a proper dwelling place for the Holy Spirit, not out of obligation or the chance to earn something, but out of adoration for who God is and how holy He is.
When I think about my heart, mind and body being a temple, not in a self-serving way but in a humble way of service, I get a reality check. We need to discipline ourselves in order for the Spirit to reveal the ways in which we need to grow more like Him. What do I want playing over and over in my mind, that post on Instagram or the Word of God?
I don't want to allow myself to be distracted from what God wants to reveal in me. The thought of missing out on His voice in my life saddens me. But in order for the voice of God to increase in my life, I need to decrease the wants and distractions I’ve allowed to creep in. I’m nowhere near where I want to be, but I continue to press closer to God so that I may decrease, and He may increase.
— Janie Reed, U.S. Olympic softball player