As a native of Berkeley California, I loved my city and NEVER thought I'd ever move out of California. My husband was born in Cleveland, OH, but moved to California at the age of 2 where he was raised in Oakland, CA as an adolescent. He and I met during our junior year at the University of California, Berkeley. Initially, our relationship was strictly platonic. It soon evolved into a trusted friendship which quickly led to marriage, a successful professional football career, four children, retirement and multiple careers thereafter. Tarik was a first round draft pick to the Indianapolis Colts. It was in Indianapolis where our relationship with one another and personally with the Lord, begin to take shape. After 4 houses, 4 dogs, 4 children, 1 miscarriage and a 10 year career in the NFL, Tarik decided to walk away from football.
Unlike most former players, Tarik chose to leave football before it left him. He retired after winning a Super Bowl Championship and still had one more season remaining on his contract. This decision was a shock to many (including myself). In all honesty, the first thought that popped into my head was probably that of everyone else- “Are you really going to walk away from all that money?” I can’t say that I initially had peace with his decision, but after talking it through and praying I knew no matter what, I had to respect his decision and trust that God was going to be with us every step of the way. At the time, finances weren’t an issue, but soon after his retirement, the stock market started to tank and so did many of our investments and business ventures. What started off as an ideal way to exit a career “On one’s own terms” started to feel a bit more shaky. As the dust begin to settle and our wealth decreased, the anxiety increased. I begin to think about going back to work. I felt a burden to start bringing in income to help reduce the pace of money being suctioned out of our account due to a myriad of circumstances affecting our finances. I also felt as if it was now “my turn” to do something more than raise children and manage the home. I wanted to choose a career that was going to provide me the flexibility to be there for my family but allow for financial stability. At the same time, my husband was trying to figure out what his next move was going to be for himself. He was on a journey to discover his purpose and identity outside of the role (NFL Player) that had dominated his life for so many years. He dibbled and dabbled in a variety of fields such as graduate school, business owner/operator, media personality, philanthropy/non profit work, ministry and the collegiate sector in athletics. This was much more difficult than either of us had anticipated. It was stressful. Our transition hasn’t been easy. It’s been challenging. It has taken time, a lot of prayer, counseling, humility, support and encouragement from friends and ultimately, surrendering to God. These challenges have impacted our faith and our relationship with God and each other. As Tarik and I enter our 19th year of marriage, we know without a doubt, that it’s not the blessings but the stretching that has kept us pressing forward. We had and still have challenges to work through regarding finances, children, aging parents, career and future. They never stop coming. But it is the challenges and testing that brings us closer to God and closer to each other. We know that if we were not rooted in Christ, our marriage and family would be very different, perhaps not even in tact! Challenges often do one of two things in a marriage: pull you apart or push you together. God is constantly refining us and the refinement process is rarely a fun experience. However with Christ, the outcome is intended to produce a better version of ourselves. And I can confidently say, I am a much better version of me now than I was then.
Something I am grateful for during my husband’s time as a player is our growth in Christ personally and the Christian relationships and community that was fostered. We were given an opportunity to live a life that many people believe is the epitome of fame and fortune. Although, that was not how either of our stories began. As a child, I experienced my mom working and going to school while raising 3 children on her own. We were on welfare and took advantage of all the resources that were provided through that program. Later, my mom finished her schooling and became a nurse. Instead of food stamps we now used coupons, frequented the Goodwill and Salvation Army for clothing and furniture and bought just about everything on sale (all things that I still do to date). I am a frugal person and firmly believe that we should be good stewards of our resources. But I admit, my perspective on money is a little skewed and often unbalanced. My husband however, operated much differently. At times, watching him spend money was like watching water run out of the faucet and down the drain. Obviously, when it came to spending money, we clashed. I was a saver and he was a spender. He wanted to buy a plane and I wanted to use frequent flyer miles (this is an exaggeration -kind of). This also was an issue with giving. He would want to donate ten times over what I felt was already a generous amount. Needless to say, we were not in agreement when it came to our finances. This caused a lot of strife in our marriage that ultimately led to dishonest actions, blame, manipulation and a lack of trust between one another. We needed to be on the same page and we took some hard financial hits by neglecting this matter. Fortunately, through prayer, professional counseling and communication we have learned how not to move forward on any decision unless we are in agreement. No matter what your financial circumstances are, understand that being anxious about it will most likely further put a wedge between you and your spouse. When you are anxious, it is harder for you to access logical, common-sense solutions. In order to work together, both spouses need to commit to open, honest communication without being condescending or accusatory. This is true for any conflict, not just financial ones. Even as I write about this topic and share with my husband, it stirs up emotions and conversation about what we still need to work on as individuals and as a couple. Still today, I have to fight my anxiety about our spending habits or how the stock market is performing. The Holy Spirit reminds me that my anxiety is often rooted in fear and fear does not come from God. I now realize that my position of lack as a child is an area of familiarity and comfort for me. However, that is no longer my position as a child of God. I need to put ALL my trust and dependency in the Lord. I can’t pick and choose to keep what’s familiar or comfortable, or else I’m not fully surrendering. What Christ has shown me during our transition out of the NFL is that fame and fortune doesn’t define who you are or what your are worth. It actually breeds a false sense of security that can leave many people crushed and broken when the status goes away or sometimes in the midst of the experience. However, what I have realized is we were both crushed and broken long before life in the NFL and the most valuable thing we received from our time in the league was not a Super Bowl ring or fame and fortune, it was a deeper relationship with Christ!
Suffering can and will come in many forms, but it’s intended to bring you closer to Christ. The important thing to know about suffering is that we aren’t in it alone.
Challenges are going to come. Although they aren’t fun, they are necessary for spiritual growth. I heard my husband say “You can’t build muscle without resistance.” I believe the same is true for us spiritually. You won’t know Christ without suffering. It is a powerful way to identify with what he did on our behalf and depend solely on him for refuge. Suffering can and will come in many forms, but it’s intended to bring you closer to Christ. The important thing to know about suffering is that we aren’t in it alone. Oftentimes when people are in the midst of suffering that is when they question God’s love for them or perhaps acknowledge they are not in control or tend to isolate themselves. God is always with us and refuses to let our suffering be in vain. He desires for us to depend on him consistently, during the high and low points. God also put in us the desire to want to help others in their pain. This is why a foundation in Christ is necessary and A Victor’s Voice is here. We wanted to give back to others who were in situations similar to ourselves or people we knew. Our suffering should bring us closer to God, but also be an opportunity for us to draw closer to each other. All of us are facing hardships. Yours may look completely different than mine, but we have a unique opportunity to come alongside each other and bear one another burdens. Know that you are deeply loved and not alone.
My name is Maya and I am a Victor's Voice.