Updated: Jun 14, 2020
You couldn’t tell me I wasn’t going to become a pro basketball player. I was destined to go to the WNBA.
The very first time my older brother Keenan put a basketball in my hand around age 7, I took to the game like a duck to water. I played in a bunch of youth leagues and eventually became the star player on my middle and high school teams. To this day, I don’t think there’s anything like the ambient sound of screeching high-top sneakers, calling out screens, and a bouncing leather ball coming from an NCAA tournament game on TV. Basketball became my identity. I lived, ate, slept, and breathed the game itself…until it was taken away from me.
From 11th grade, I was no longer able to play due to Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP), a debilitating illness that I carried with me since birth, which caused extreme anemia. This illness was at its peak at age 18, when I had spent the entire summer in and out of our local emergency room or sick in bed. I was so sick, so tired, so depleted that one day I asked my mother, who was a long-time CNA, how some of her patients were able to just relinquish their will to live so they could die as they wished. I had tried my best to follow suit, but it just wasn’t happening. Completely alarmed by this desperate cry, my mother packed me in her minivan the very next day and headed to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. A week too soon, apparently, as the doctor let my mother know that had I stayed home just one more week…I would have died.
Fast forward 13 years later, while I was dating my future husband, I experienced the crushing loss of my dear brother. You see, Keenan and I both suffered from FAP. The mere fact that I inherited it meant there would be a 50% chance of passing it on to my children. If gone untreated, FAP invariably becomes a high risk factor of colon cancer during the adult years. In my brother’s case, for instance, he had had most of his colon surgically removed as a preventive measure when he was 19. Unfortunately, the procedure was not a fail-safe as colon cancer eventually got the best of him at age 35. So my husband fully understood the seriousness of my condition prior to our engagement, yet he married me anyway.
Because he loves me.
I thought about this one day and felt overwhelmed with gratitude for my husband. He looked past my condition and chose to spend his life with me. I would consider myself to be pretty high risk — not only with the cost of medical bills from frequent check-ups, but also the chance of what could happen with our children. High risk for sure, yet he chose me. His decision reminded me of the risk Jesus Christ took when choosing to be my Savior. I mean, I was born with a pre-existing spiritual condition, much more critical than any physical condition — a condition called sin. In fact, we were all born into it…and there is a 100% chance that we will pass it on to our children.
It is in our nature to sin. It’s pre-existing and perpetual, and if not treated, leads to death. Our sin separates us from God. We all turn our backs against Him because of our sin. We are all “high risk.” Yet Jesus wants a relationship with us anyway. So much so, that He offered Himself to be punished for our sins by dying on the cross.
Ephesians 2:3-5 says, “Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love where with he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved).” Jesus fully understood the magnitude of our sin, prior to purchasing us by His own blood, yet He graciously offered Himself anyway. “Why?” you may ask.
Because He loves us.
Epilogue: Today I am alive by the grace of God, sharing my fearless story to inspire others with the incomparable love of Jesus Christ. Regardless of the many losses, obstacles, disappointments, and setbacks life has thrown at me, I am a survivor and an overcomer. Now I am able to look at life through the lenses of hope and gratitude. As a coach, ministry author, and speaker, I am determined to be a light in this world and spread love, hope, and power for change to women who may be experiencing hopelessness and defeat. This is not your story, it’s just a chapter. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. You just have to let God open your eyes to see it.
Shayla is a women’s wellness advocate, speaker, coach, and author. Faith in God helped her overcome intimate partner violence and other major losses. Today, Shayla Reneé empowers other women to find purpose and identity in Christ through her highly-acclaimed book, HE ALMOST STOLE MY LIFE and other great resources at https://www.shaywrites.com/