Emma Hartzler

What was life like before you met Jesus?

For as long as I can remember, my family has been going to church. My grandpa was a pastor, so it was just something we did. I attended Sunday school, went to a few summer Bible camps over the years, and got involved in our church’s youth group throughout high school. I knew who God was, and when asked, I claimed to believe in Him, but I never truly bought into it all. I was living my life for myself and put most of my time and efforts into athletics rather than God. While I viewed attending church as something I had to do every week, gymnastics was a choice I got to make. It was the thing I lived for, and NOTHING was more important to me. I let it define me and I thought that I was only worthy of love and acceptance when I had success. But I was placing my identity in the wrong thing and no matter what I did, how many awards I won, or how high I climbed in the sport, I always felt it wasn’t good enough. It always felt like something was missing. When I went to college, I was still trying to do things on my own and living for myself. I had accepted an offer to compete for the University of Iowa, and that was my only focus. There was no plan for my life after graduation, in my mind, when gymnastics ended, so did I. Luckily, God had plans for me, I just didn’t know it yet.

How did you meet Jesus?

During my sophomore year, I went through several trials, one right after the other, and I was not prepared to deal with any of them. Despite the many opportunities to depend on God and turn from my ways (as I had been taught to do), I refused and continued in my sin. In a last-ditch effort to reach my heart, God took the one thing that meant the most to me: gymnastics. In the middle of my collegiate career, my world came crashing down, and because my identity was in gymnastics, I did not know where to go or what to do without it. It was through this time away from gymnastics that I was able to fill the void in my life properly. I started going to Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) with my mom and was able to get into God’s Word on a weekly basis for the first time in my life. Doing the lesson, being in God’s Word daily, and listening to what the women in my group had to say really helped me learn about God… who He was, and how I was supposed to live in Him. Ephesians 2 tells us that “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” God is in control; I opened my heart to Him, and I haven’t looked back.

After being saved by Jesus, what is your life like now?

With my identity finally in Christ, I have all that I need to live this life I am living to the fullest. I no longer question who I am because I know who I belong to. During my off year from Iowa, I took a two-and-a-half-week trip out of the country (something I would not have done before giving my life to God) that put me down the path of nursing. Trusting in God’s plan, I returned to Iowa to finish out my last year both athletically and academically, went on to complete my nursing degree at Mount Mercy, and landed a job at the University’s Children’s Hospital. He has blessed me with a wonderful fiancé who loves Jesus and pushes me in my faith every day. God truly does have a plan for my life (Jeremiah 29:11), plans that ultimately lead me to an eternal life in heaven with Him. Looking back, I can see God’s hand in it all, and I am so thankful for His grace and continuous pursuit of my heart. I am proud to say Jesus is my LORD and Savior and that He guides my life.