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Grace in Letting Go

Published on June 06, 2023

Sarah Freymuth
Kelsey Oswald is quick to smile, a bright grin matches her peace and confidence. As the Cougars defender walks the halls of the athletic facilities at the University of Sioux Falls in South Dakota, her passion for the Lord to control her life, and for her peers to live in step with the Lord is evident. But it hasn’t always been this way.

Although she grew up in a Christian home, she says her spiritual journey really began at an FCA Camp during her freshman year of high school; she gave her life to the Lord on the last night of worship.

hxUGJDD-Fresh off the excitement of a new life in Christ, Oswald returned home and committed to devotional time with God. Soon after, however, her time filled with other activities and left little space for a relationship with the Lord.

“I left pumped, then came home to hills and valleys,” Oswald admitted about an internal pressure of having to consistently be in a daily quiet time while immersing in the pace of being a student-athlete. “I felt shame that I couldn’t keep up. My second year at camp, I felt like I didn’t measure up. I had God on the back burner and had a lack of confidence in my faith.”

Oswald continued to place pressure on herself for the way she would or wouldn’t spend time with God. Holding on by a thread, the remains of her desire to keep it all together unraveled when COVID-19 hit in 2020 during her senior year of high school.

“It was bad, mentally,” she said. “I had no control. I couldn’t perform anymore with sports, and that was something I was wrestling with: putting my worth in my performance.”

From home, she kept training and playing soccer even as the world shut down, which helped her face her last year of high school. She was recruited to play soccer at the University of Sioux Falls, and joined the Cougars after graduation. But despite her athletic success and open doors, Oswald’s unhealthy quest for control and inconsistent relationship with the Lord continued. She regulated how she worked out, what she ate, and would work overtime hours at her job. Everything, it seemed, depended on what she could keep in check.

“I had no trust in Jesus,” she said. But, looking back now, she sees that“We don’t have to rely on ourselves...God looks at me through what Christ has done, not through what I can do.” 
-Kelsey Oswald 
Jesus didn’t let go of her.

In the spring of her freshman year, Oswald started going to an FCA Bible study in her dorm and was struck by something the leader said: “You can get up early to work out, but you can’t get up early for God?”

“It was a gut punch for me,” she shared. “We don’t have to rely on ourselves; Jesus did it all on the cross, but I was basing my salvation on myself. God looks at me through what Christ has done, not through what I can do.”

The encouragement was just what Oswald needed to hear. She got rid of her impossible standards and let the Lord give her His easy yoke, which freed her up to genuinely spend time with Him out of a desire in her heart rather than a have-to. Ever since that FCA meeting in the dorm, she’s regularly had time with the Lord.

“I got into the Bible and found some verses to remind me I can come boldly to God, like Hebrews 4:16 and Ephesians 3:12,” she said.

Consistent time in the Word helped her begin to release control and learn to place all she balances in God’s hands. As she’s currently finishing her junior year, Oswald faces a full plate. She’s a student-athlete, a nursing major, a Huddle leader with FCA on campus and she leads a team Bible study. As she reflects back over her college experience so far, she sees the growth of not just her own faith, but the faith of her teammates as well.

“When I first got here, I felt like I was the only religious person on the team,” Oswald shared. “But girls in the grade below me who came in during my second year were super interested in faith too. Finding a group of girls I can relate with on that level has been good. I feel like it's such a blessing to have girls like that in my life who I can talk to.”
With the encouragement of team chaplain and FCA Area Director Lindsey Eastman, Oswald and her teammates were challenged to renew their mindset and live even more transformed.

“I’ve had Romans 12:2 in the back of my head lately:‘ Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God,’” Oswald shared.

“We’re transformed by the renewal of our minds, so when you have a crisis, you fall back on your foundation. That’s been my focus. It’s not an automatic flip, but something that slowly becomes a habit over time.”

This mindset switch deeply resonates with Oswald, as she’s released her grip on control and a cavalier take on spending time with the Lord.

And the Lord is using what He’s teaching her to help others. Oswald shared her testimony last summer as a Huddle leader at the Black Hills FCA Sports Camp in Spearfish, South Dakota. “God shouldn’t have to fight for our time,” she reminded the high school athletes spread across the lawn,“ but you don’t have to feel bad about how much or little you’ve spent with Him. God just wants to have a relationship with you.”

As her offseason approaches, Oswald plans to continue to develop both her physical and spiritual strength, continuing her commitment to spending time with the Lord and seeking His plans for her life.

“I’m praying for more opportunities to share the Gospel, and to trust God’s plan regardless,” she said. “It’s taken a long road to get to this point.”


Photo courtesy of University of Sioux Falls Athletics