Ryan Broyles grew up in Norman Oklahoma. The southern part of the United States is often referred to as the “Bible Belt”. This means a place where church attendance is part of regular life for the vast majority of people. Broyles was no exception. He could be regularly found at church with his mother, a single mom, and his 3 siblings. As he shares in this interview with unpackin’it, at the age of 14, his mother gave him the choice of going to church or not. Through high school and college, Broyles presence at church became less and less frequent. He would still attend occasionally, but given the choice, he chose to skip more often than not.
Fast forward to 2007. Broyles is arrested for attempting to steal gas from a station in Norman OK. He is suspended from the team indefinitely. The time for searching out the meaning and purpose outside of football begins. In 2010, things began to change for Broyles. His girlfriend at the time (now his wife) said that they needed to make some changes in how they were living their lives. They decided to start reading and studying the Bible together, joined a church and began to get involved.
He shares in this article that in the midst of his record setting season with Oklahoma, he also began studying the Bible with Sooner quarterback Landry Jones. He enjoyed learning more and more about the Bible and God, but still something was missing. The table was set for a life changing experience for Broyles. That experience would come in the form of a mission trip to Haiti. He returned from his experience there a changed man. He was beginning to understand that living for God was about giving Him your all. It was not about taking things for granted.
Broyles was in one of the poorest places on earth, and what he found was people of deep faith in God, living joy-filled lives. And he was jealous of them and their joy. He had been learning a lot about God, but serving God and seeing the joy of other believers, Broyles heart made a connection. He came back from that trip with a desire to live for God everyday.
Here are my takeaways from Broyles’ story:
1- The Choice is Ours – I find it interesting that Broyles shared that his mother gave him a choice at about age 14 of whether he would go to church or not. The truth is that as a parent, we would love to make all the decisions for our kids, but the reality is that each one of us gets to choose for themselves how important God is going to be in our life. As I read this portion of the story, I thought about Joshua 24. God has used Joshua to lead the Israelites to the promised land. He gathers them all together and reminds the assembly of all that God has done to bring them to this place. He finishes with this challenge. “So fear the Lord and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped(…) Serve the Lord alone. But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve(…) But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.”
As parents, this is what we ultimately must do for our kids. Leave no doubt where we stand in our own faith, but remember that the decision is ultimately up to each individual to choose how important God will be in their lives. I am sure that when she offered her son the choice of going to church or not, Ryan Broyles mom prayed that God would remind him of all the things he learned in church, and prayed that God would draw Ryan back to Him. That is what happened, and Broyles is using his platform as a football player to serve God
2- When you see what is important, what you see becomes important – Broyles trip to Haiti, and his journey of faith has helped him realize what is most important – living for God. But when you are living to honor and serve God, whatever he calls you to do, then becomes of great importance, too. Colossians 3.23 says “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men”, trip Broyles talks about training hard and putting in a lot of work in practice and in film study so he can be the best player he can be. Does he do this to be a star and have everyone talk about how amazing he is? No. He does this because to work at his craft (football) with all his heart is what God asks of him.
That is the challenge I am taking from Broyles story. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men! (Col. 3.23)