Life-changing Moments: Guest Post by Les Steckel

I have the privilege of meeting often with leaders in different ministries, and one of those who has become a great friend is Les Steckel, the president of FCA.  Les is a colorful communicator and I asked if I could have a guest post from him for Kindling.  He sent me this story about life-changing moments.

Iconic photo from FCA

Iconic photo from FCA

Narrowly avoiding a midair collision between two helicopters while serving with the Marines in Vietnam was definitely the most dramatic moment in my life.

The day I married my wonderful wife more than 38 years ago was a blessing I never deserved and something I’ll never forget. And I still remember each of the days our three grown children were born like they were yesterday.

All of those moments were memorable, but when I think “life-changing,” something entirely different comes to mind.

My truly life-changing “moment” spanned 13 months in Foxborough, Mass., after God completely removed me—then a 44-year-old coach—from the place my identity seemed most secure: the sidelines.

The story actually began 25 years earlier when, as a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of Kansas, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior a couple weeks after hearing a man on campus speak about God’s peace, purpose, power and pardon in our lives.

That decision changed my life in many ways. I started reading the Word and getting involved with Bible studies. Several years later, I got married and, at the encouragement of my wife and friends, entered the coaching ranks. Before I knew it, I was on the sidelines and experiencing a lot of success.

I felt God was truly blessing me for committing to Him as my Savior, but in my heart of hearts I knew I wasn’t doing it all for Him. I was doing it for me. Then, as quickly as I’d risen in the coaching world, God removed me from it.It was the loneliest, most heart-aching, soul-searching time of brokenness I’ve ever experienced. I was unemployed and totally isolated, crying out to God each day, “Please help me. Please lead me. Please show me why You put me here on Earth. What is my purpose?”

The phone didn’t ring. Nothing in the mail. Nobody at the door. Total isolation. Total rejection.

Despite the emotional valley I was in, quite miraculously it also happened to be the most blessed time I’ve ever spent with God, experiencing complete renewal through a personal and intimate relationship with Him. I continued going to church on Sundays, which I enjoyed more than ever. I went to Wednesday night services and got plugged into a men's Bible study. And my prayer times were the richest they’d ever been.

All in all it was the most difficult—yet most insightful—13 months of my life. There are times even now I want to go back to that quiet time, where I went to the bowels of my soul to clean out the muck. I realized that at 19 I had accepted Christ as my Savior, but not as my Lord. Football was my Lord. It took that time of brokenness for God to remove football from my life and open my eyes to the joy of allowing Him to be my Savior and Lord.

I still remember the call inviting me back into coaching and my wife eloquently explaining, “Honey, I believe you need to go back to coaching and start all over again at the University of Colorado. And this time, do it His way.”

So, what does this mean for you? Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior? Honestly, that’s not difficult to do. We’re all looking for someone or something to save us. But have you also committed to Him as Lord of your life? That’s a serious decision! God wants His followers to be fully devoted and sold out to Him as both Savior and Lord.

I challenge you to truly surrender your life to Jesus and have that life-changing moment without having to go through the brokenness I endured. He knows your heart and has a purpose for your life, and I’m confident you’ll be pleased with what He has designed for you. He has a great game plan for all of us.

Les Steckel is the president and CEO of Fellowship of Christian Athletes. A veteran NFL coach, his extensive involvement with FCA dates back to 1972 when, as a college football coach, he attended his first FCA conference. Steckel and his wife, Chris, also speak at FCA marriage enrichment weekends, and prior to his selection as FCA President and CEO, both he and Chris served on the FCA National Board of Trustees. His football coaching career has included two colleges and seven NFL teams over 32 years. He is a retired Marine and the author of One Yard Short: Turning Your Defeats Into Victories.

Originally published in the May/June 2013 issue of FCA Magazine.