It was early on that my parents introduced me to the Christian faith. They tried to take us to church and memorize Scripture, which is great, but there’s a time when you will be on your own and you have to make those decisions for yourself. That time for me came when I went away to college.
I went into college after a good high school career, feeling good about continuing that success, but when I got to Duke, I hit a wall. Being away from home and feeling the pressure of being at such a high-powered school, I wilted. All of that led to me being down on myself. I remember calling my mom a lot. Crying, I would ask her, “Is this for me? Should I quit? Should I come home? I don’t want to do this anymore.”
That was when I realized this basketball thing cannot be my identity. Up until that point it had been my identity. But putting your faith and life into something so fragile is very dangerous. I realized then that my whole representation of self had been in basketball. When that was taken away from me because I couldn’t cut the standards, that was tough. I had to find my identity in Christ and realize who I am won’t be found in basketball. My worth isn’t found as an athlete on the court, it’s in who I am every single day as a follower of Christ.
When I transferred to Southern Methodist University, I still had to deal with that; I still had to figure out that me sitting out, not being able to perform, does not determine who I am. It’s how I treat people, how I handle my academics, and how I build relationships with my parents, family and friends.
My relationship with Christ really began when I decided I needed to spend time in the Word of God every day. Up until then, I would go to God when I felt really low or I felt like I needed something, but when things started to go well in my life — when I felt in control — I wouldn’t read my Bible or feel like I needed to pray.
The summer after I transferred to SMU, as I was still red-shirting and unsure of when I would get to play, I decided I would spend 30 minutes every day in God’s Word. From then on, it turned into something that’s been consistent. It became a great habit for me. No matter what’s going on, I make sure I spend that time with God so I have that foundation every day.
All of this helped me build a foundation in my life so that now when things are up and down, no matter how I feel, they don’t determine who I am. The biggest part of me is found in Christ.
— Semi Ojeleye, Boston Celtics forward
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