In an arena where challenges are inevitable and competition tests an athlete’s temperament, Jaelene Hinkle says playing soccer at the highest levels has nurtured and tested her faith and helped her grow in her relationship with Jesus Christ.
“I think that all of it is a growing experience … it has made me dig deeper into my faith and find out what I believe and why I believe it, and to be able to stand firm in that is huge,” Hinkle said.
She knows something about standing firm.
The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team called up Hinkle, a defender from the North Carolina Courage of the National Women’s Soccer League, to compete in two international “friendlies” against Sweden and Norway.
Following the call-up, U.S. Soccer announced that both their men’s and women’s teams would wear rainbow-colored jerseys for the matches in support of LGBTQ Pride Month in June. Hinkle won’t speak directly about the incident, but according to a U.S. Soccer press release following the announcement, Hinkle, 24, withdrew from the roster for “personal reasons.”
Though the personal reasons haven’t been stated, when asked if her reason for not playing was rooted in her Christian convictions, Hinkle told Decision, “I think any decision I make is rooted in my faith and who I am and the beliefs I hold. Yes, it was a personal decision that I made in my faith.”
Driven by her faith, Hinkle has always considered soccer to be more than just a game.
“I feel like it’s a passion from the Lord,” she said. “Yes, you’re always working to develop your skills, but I think it’s also an area that the Lord blessed me with so that I could share my faith with everyone I come across using this gift that I’ve been given.”
Her goal is to be able to voice and show the love of Christ—to be a light.
“It’s all about being able to trust that you’re in the Lord’s hands, that He’s put you where you’re supposed to be and that you can tackle each day with the mindset of ‘whatever I face today, the Lord is holding my hand through it all.’”
Hinkle’s favorite verse is Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.”
“When you set your mind on things above and not on this world,” Hinkle said, “the outcome is way more gratifying and rewarding than any medal or trophy or accolade we could receive here on earth.”
The Scripture quotation is taken from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version.