Jean Driscoll was born in 1966 with a condition known as spina bifida. She grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and in those days there was not much technology or sports opportunities with people with physical challenges. Although she had wanted to fit in and be parts of sports teams as a child and teenager, she was not physically able. And then a bicycle accident during her freshman year at high school led to multiple surgeries to repair her damaged hips and related injuries. Driscoll says, “It was a really long year. I remember praying over and over again… that I would be like everybody else. I just wanted to blend in. I hated sticking out.”
None of the surgeries worked and now came the inevitable: first crutches, and then the dreaded wheelchair.
Is God Picking On Me?
“I was so made at God because I thought that He was picking on me,” Driscoll says. “First, I was born with this disability and I was constantly teased, and then I had all these painful surgeries. I’ve got foot-long scars over both hips. None of those surgeries worked, and doctors are supposed to be able to fix everything. I didn’t understand why they couldn’t fix my body. It was a really hard time.”
- What are some personal challenges or physical limitations that you have dealt with?
- Did you ever feel like giving up?
- What was it that gave you the strength to fight through those times?
Driscoll had no idea that God would use the wheelchair and her disability to open doors to some incredible and unimaginable places:
- First, in high school she began playing wheelchair soccer.
- Then she played wheelchair ice hockey, football, soccer, tennis and basketball.
- In college, at the University of Illinois, she added track and road racing to her collegiate repertoire.
- Her college track and field coach challenged her to compete in marathons.
- She placed second in the Chicago Marathon.
- Then she competed in the 1990 Boston Marathon, where she not only won the race but she broke the world record.
- She ultimately won eight (8) Boston Marathons.
- She competed in the Olympics Games in 1988, 1992, 1996 & 2000, winning five gold medals, three silver medals and four bronze medals.
Why Isn’t God Mad At My Siblings?
Driscoll says that in her early years that her understanding of God was skewed by tragedy and tumult. “I always felt like I was being punished because God was a big, made God and if you did things wrong, He was going to get you,” Driscoll says. “My question was, Why is He only calling me out? Why isn’t He ever mad at my siblings?”
A New Beginning
Driscoll was invited to a Bible study and challenged to trust in Jesus Christ as her Lord & Savior. After a period of time, she surrendered her heart and life to Jesus Christ. She says, “All of those early years when I was being picked on [by her peers] and I thought that God was picking on me, I was so tired of being picked on. Then I realized that I had been picked out. I had been picked out to do things that God only created me to do. I was working so hard to blend in and be like everybody else, and He kept pulling me out and showing me that I wasn’t like everybody else. My life was not meant to blend in, but it was meant to stand out. That just blew me away — and it still does.”
Read Romans 12:12
12 Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer.
- Why would a person need to “rejoice in hope”?
- What does it mean to “be patient in affliction”?
- What is the value of being “persistent in prayer”?
Driscoll says that her disability helped her to develop mental toughness.
- What does mental toughness mean to you?
- Do you consider yourself mentally tough?
- If so, what has helped you develop that quality?
Driscoll has had the opportunity to coach wheelchair athletes from Africa in the past few years. Had she not been faced with the challenges she was faced with – and persevered! – she would not have had that opportunity.
- How have you seen God open up doors of opportunity for you through your successes or difficulties?
- How do you want your life to impact others athletically and spiritually?
Read John 17:4
4 I have glorified You on the earth by completing the work You gave Me to do.
- In what ways did Jesus persevere in order to bring glory to God?
- What are some ways you can glorify God through your perseverance?
A Simple Prayer: “Lord, take all of me and use me for your glory. Take my abilities and my limitations. Let me do my very best, and let me point people to faith in you.”
Adapted from Excellence: True Champions Pursue Greatness In All Areas Of Life, Chapter 5, “Pushing Through,” produced by Fellowship of Christian Athletes.