Phillip Salkeld could not get enough of sacrifice. discipline and sporting success. However, everything changed when he was 11.
Growing up, being involved in different sports meant I needed to make small sacrifices, such as getting up early and ensuring I ate the right food. With pressure from friends and society, this was often a challenge. However, I had experienced that winning feeling -an amazing feeling that I needed to feel again and again.
At the same time as I was succeeding in sport, I became very body conscious and strongly felt a need to look fit. This meant sacrificing more time, food, and money.
I mistakenly identified myself with my victories, image and trophies. When I did not win, therefore, I did not know who I was. I had forgotten the truth underlined by speaker and author Richard Rohr that, in God, “There is nothing to prove and nothing to protect. I am who I am and it's enough.”
I forgot how it felt to not get my own way and was unprepared for the biggest hardship: my parents’ divorce when I was 11, which left my ego and pride very bruised.
Walls Around My Heart
I was confused, lost and extremely hurt as a result of the divorce. I built walls around my heart to survive and made some bad choices, such as stealing and showing off in front of friends. Things came to a head when I physically hurt someone.
I was arrested as a result. I had hit rock bottom. Although my family were frantically worried about me, I kept getting into trouble. I was soon caught stealing and just could not get myself out of this place.
My Mum arranged for my parish priest to visit, which proved to be a turning point. Perhaps she thought some religion would do me good! This priest was real with me and his faith was contagious. He showed me the same truth the prodigal son experienced: namely, that God always shows unconditional love and mercy.
He also helped me break down the walls I had built and to embrace my brokenness. I realised that, although each of us is special, chosen and loved, God loves us far too much to let us stay as we are.
Pride And Ego
Although I am far from perfect, I know that when I have sacrificed my own pride and ego, I am able to grow in God’s ways and go to places I never thought I would go.
I needed to sacrifice the most difficult thing in order to pick myself back up: my ego. Thank God for my faith, which gives me strength to persevere. Richard Rohr writes: “The ego hates losing – even to God.” This is a very challenging lesson.
Every day is a new opportunity to sacrifice, not only for our own good, but also for others. The world can often be a violent place and nothing is more important than to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.
Whilst I have made time this Lent for exercise, a greater priority has been to spend more time in prayer. This will prepare me for times where I need to sacrifice my ego and pride and find opportunities to be more like Christ in word and deed.
As Saint Teresa of Calcutta said: if we want to change the world, we must do “small things with great love”, often the most difficult and most powerful sacrifices of all.