It’s easy to define myself by the things that I’ve accomplished – “Stanford Swimmer,” “World #1,” “Olympian” – but I’ve learned over the years from sport that I must get my identity from Christ rather than from my race performances.
I grew up swimming in Wyoming and made it all the way to the US National Swim Team. I medaled in two Pan American Games and one Pan Pacific Games, and I earned a swimming scholarship to Stanford University where I was on the Dean’s List for all but one quarter of my four years there.
In 1991, I competed in my last swim meet, retired from swimming, graduated from college and moved to Jackson, WY, intending to “play” for a year before moving on to graduate school. I waited tables at night and played outside in the best playground, Grand Teton National Park, during the day – trail running, riding my bike, and Nordic skiing. Meanwhile, most of my friends from Stanford were attending medical school or law school, or pulling in six-figure salaries, while I was waiting tables and putting on weight. Even though I had been a Christian since I was eleven years old, I was going through an identity crisis. No longer could I get my feelings of self-worth from being a champion swimmer and a great student. I was lost.
After a few years of unsuccessful attempts to find my identity in athletic endeavors in that outdoor playground, God broke me. I was physically and mentally exhausted from trying to get my inner kudos and self-worth from the things that I did.
God revealed to me that He loved me no matter what I did. If I ran 8 miles that day, if I weighted 150 lbs. or 125 lbs., it didn’t matter because His love was unconditional. God’s love is not performance based.
With that realization, I was give back the desire to race again, and I started to dabble in triathlons just for fun. During the last year of swimming at Stanford, I had dreaded the competitions. I was racing with the fear of failure because there was so much riding on each race – my self-esteem. But in triathlon, I began racing because I wanted to, not because I needed to. There’s a huge difference between want and need and that difference stems from freedom.
In the summer of 1995 I met my future husband, Loren, on a cycling club ride. God brought Loren into my life at the right time and with the knowledge, desire, and support to encourage and guide me into turning professional. In April of 1996, I participated in my first professional triathlon while Loren and I were on our honeymoon. Team Lindquist was born!
Racing as a triathlete was a whole different story since my identity was in Christ now rather than in my own performances. I looked forward to racing because I was excited to see how God was going to use me on race day. Racing became more fun.
Amazingly, God used me as much in losses — like the disappointment of not making the 2000 Olympic Team – as in wins (though I prefer the wins!). God has blessed me with athletic talents and it’s my greatest desire to use those talents to glorify Him, not myself. My biggest fear in retiring from triathlon was that I would still have the fire for competition even though the desire to start a family would force me to stop racing. I though it would be a sacrifice to end my racing career. But God prepared my heart throughout 2005 by slowly turning off my competitive drive, a though He had his hand on my “competitive juice faucet” and was slowly turning it off with each race. For someone who had always been an athlete since she was a little eight-year-old fish, it was an amazing experience to be a part of. The Lord confirmed that it was time to step away from the competition phase of the sport I loved.
Loren and I were confident that the Lord would use us in the next phase of our personal and professional lives. Giving back to the sport I love by coaching is a dream. We didn’t think the Lord could bless us even more until I became pregnant and gave birth to twin boys in December of 2006. Double blessing! Of all the great accomplishments that Team Lindquist achieved, our biggest joy has been parenthood.