If you had no friends, no money, no success, no breaks in life, no significance and no future you could understand the dark feeling of being empty inside. Perhaps you have a horrible inner void, screaming out to be filled, that hauntingly echoes through the hollow caverns of your secret life. But what if you had everything above – yet, with each positive milestone reached, the gnawing empty void at the core of who you are grew stronger? Then what?
She wasn’t born with snowboard boots on but almost; and she was born in the premiere snowboarding state of Vermont, USA. Check this out:
Many of the country’s best snowboarders come from Vermont. Notable Snowboarding Olympic Medalists include Danny Kass and Shaun White, both of whom spent a lot of their time at Okemo Mountain and Bear Mountain in Ludlow, Vermont. Ross Powers is an American world champion halfpipe snowboarder from Peru, Vermont; Hannah Teter is from Belmont, Vermont; Lindsey Jacobellis is from Stratton, Vermont; and Kelly Clark is from Burlington, Vermont. Vermont is also home to Jake Burton and Burton Snowboards, the world’s first snowboard factory, currently located in Burlington, Vermont. (1)
Kelly Clark started her snowboarding career at age 7. Today she is the most medaled snowboarder in the world and in history for both genders.
Once considered the ‘underground’ sport, lacking the dignity and class of skiing, snowboarding was first included as an Olympian sport in 1998 in Nagano, Japan. In 2002, 18 year old Kelly Clark, from Vermont, became the first-ever American gold medalist in half-pipe snowboarding at the Salt Lake City Olympics.
Her Biggest Dream Comes True
Eighteen years old and at the top of your sport with a gold medal hanging around your neck. Where to from here? What’s next or is that it?
Kelly Clark said: “I was 18 years old; I had achieved everything that was in my heart to do and at the same time I wasn’t finding the fulfillment I was expecting to get from it.” (2)
Trying to Fill the Void
In another interview the Olympian snowboarder said: “I achieved the highest in my sport. I was famous. “I had money. I had an Olympic gold medal. Everything that anyone could have wanted, and I found out that wasn’t what I was looking for.” (3)
So Kelly did what she thought would fill the void in her heart.
“I strived to drink the most. I strived to be the rowdiest… all this silly stuff. That didn’t seem like a very good idea, but at the time that was what I thought was gonna make me cool. I wanted people to like me.” (4)
Neither Kelly’s gold medal nor her partying was enough to take away her deep sense of emptiness.“I had spiraled into this depression and into this place that was just real dark. I was at this contest, and I was staying by myself. I spent the morning writing about how I didn’t want to live anymore and how it wouldn’t even matter….Snowboarding’s still going great from the outside perspective. My life’s great. I’ve got it made. I’m living the dream, but on the inside I’m dying. I’m standing at the bottom of the pipe.” (5)
At the Bottom of the Pipe
A couple of years had passed and she was gearing up for the 2004-2005 FIS (International) Snowboarding World Cup season.
I went to a snowboarding event and from the outside perspective my life was picture-perfect and together. I was doing well in the contest and I qualified for finals that afternoon. But at the bottom of the pipe this girl had come down and she had fallen both runs and was crying. I was half-paying attention to her conversation and her friend was trying to make her laugh and said, “Hey, it’s all right, God still loves you.” There was just something about that comment that caught my attention that I couldn’t shake. I couldn’t deny that it stirred something up in me. (6)
The words seemed to echo in the pro-snowboarder’s heart. “God still loves you.” She had qualified for the competition but did she qualify to be loved by God? Would God love her?
“All I could think about,” Kelly said, “was what if this God loved me and do I qualify for that? Where I was at, I just needed to know. If God loves this person, maybe God would love me. Maybe that would give me fullfillment and significance. I believe as humans we were created for significance and I was looking for it everywhere and I just didn’t find it.” (7)
Perhaps as you read this story you are thinking: “I’m at the bottom of the pipe too – but a different pipe.” Keep reading.
The Hotel Room Treasure
Kelly Clark literally ran back to her hotel room. Every hotel room has a Bible, she thought. And sure enough, she found a Bible but as she opened it, she didn’t know where to look or start. Her heart was stirred and by her own admission, she didn’t know what to do.
In an interview with Larry King, Clark said: “I didn’t grow up in a religious home and to be honest, to that point in my life I never had questioned anything about God. I had never even been to church before a day in my life.”
How could she find out about God’s love for her in this big book – The Bible?
“I found out that the girl was staying in the same hotel so I found out what room she was in …. I knocked on her door and I said: “HI, My Name is Kelly, and I think you might be a Christian. I think you need to tell me about God. She started sharing God’s love with me and how that God created me for a purpose … and that God loved me. She told me that it was about a relationship – not religion and she told me that Jesus loved me. It really was, it really was, ummm…it was what I really needed to hear.” (8)
Qualifying for God’s Love
It seems that Kelly Clark thought acceptance was something that she would have to work for and earn. That’s the way it was for an athlete. Wouldn’t it be the same way spiritually? To be accepted by God, wouldn’t you have to work for it? She said: “What captured me was that God loved ME – like, I didn’t have to do anything; I didn’t have to be someone. And I had always had to be someone or do something…and that’s there’s a love that’s bigger than all of that.” (9)
The champion snowboarder desperately wanted to have this relationship with God. She began her search for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Injury Gives Her Time to Think
No one thinks an accident or a sickness or an injury is something to appreciate or value. A knee injury is a snowboarder’s worst nightmare. But for Kelly Clark, it gave her time to seriously look into the deepest and most important matter in her life. Not distracted by competitions or practises, she focused on her spiritual need to be right with God and to know the joy of having her sins all forgiven and finding inner peace.
Larry King asked her: “So how did you find Him?”
Far too many people only find religion in life. What Kelly Clark found was not religion – she found Christ. She found a person not a religion. In your search, what have you found? If all you have is a commitment to a religion, you are not a Christian and you are not yet right with God. You are not yet on the way to Heaven.
In one interview Clark said: “Basically, when I came to an end of myself, God met me.”
Best Day of Her Life
One day during those months of being sidelined by her injury, she accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as her very own personal Saviour.
She is the world’s first snowboarder to hold three Olympian medals plus a host of other medals and awards. At 30, Kelly Clark looks back on her career and says that “landing a 1080” at the 2011 X Games in Aspen, Colorado is one of the outstanding snowboarding moments in her life. But what about the best day in her life? The day she responded to God’s love and trusted His Son Jesus as her Saviour takes first place. “It was the best day of my life,” she says. “No trophy, no medal and no amount of money can equal what Christ did in me that day.” (10)
“Jesus, I Can’t Hide My Love for You.”
Yes, she still snowboards. At 30, she won an Olympic bronze in halfpipe snowboarding at Sochi in 2014. But she says that prior to finding Christ —
“My whole life was snowboarding. That’s what gave me my identity. I no longer ‘have’ to do that. There’s so much freedom…. that once you’ve tasted it, you don’t want to ever go back to anything else.” (11)
On her snowboard are these words: “Jesus, I can’t hide my love.”
That’s Kelly Clark. Now what about you? Are you satisfied or are you experiencing a certain emptiness inside? Do you have a relationship with God through Christ that has brought new meaning to your life? Is Christ the inner source of your joy?
Prayerfully think about these three questions and their answers from God’s Word for you – the Holy Bible.
Does God love you, even if you have never loved Him?
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16
Eugene Peterson paraphrased 1John 4:10 this way: “This is the kind of love we are talking about–not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.”
Can you earn God’s love and Salvation by Self Efforts?
For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any one should boast. Ephesians 2:8,9
How can you be saved and enter into a relationship and fellowship with God?
But as many as received Him [Jesus], to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name. John 1:12
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