My God Story: Bladen shares his testimony of finding self-worth in Christ, not hockey
In the first of a series of interviews with Liberty University Club Sports student-athletes entitled “My God Story,” Flames ACHA Division I men’s hockey junior forward Kris Bladen sits down with Club Sports Director of Video & Media Patrick Strawn to talk about his struggles in balancing success in the sport and thriving in life, as well as the temptation to find his identity in hockey rather than in Christ.
The videos are produced by Club Sports’ videography department in a style similar to the “I Am Second” series designed to inspire people to “put Jesus Christ first” in their lives.
Bladen’s life verse is Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” He said his parents are both pastors for the Salvation Army in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
“I grew up in a good Christian home with good values, and they taught me to love the Lord with my whole heart, and that was what they really emphasized,” said Bladen, who started playing hockey when he was 7 and committed his life to Jesus Christ that same year at a hockey camp in Saskatchewan. “I was able to go to Europe and play on some cool travel teams, and at the age of 13, that was where I started to take it to the next level. When I was 14, I wanted to get drafted so badly to the Western Hockey League … and that didn’t happen.”
He figured the only way to accomplish his goals was to work harder, putting pressure on himself to perform.
“From there, I just got addicted to the success and addicted to trying to reach that success,” Bladen said. “It was all about hockey. I wasn’t going to church on Sundays, I wasn’t reading my Bible. I said I knew God, but ‘Did I really know Him?’”
He started his Junior Hockey career well at the age of 18 on the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Spruce Grove Saints in 2018-19.
“I was happy because I was playing well, and when I wasn’t playing well, I got sad,” Bladen said. “At this point, I had built my life completely on sand. I had no foundation in God’s Word. Everything was dictated off how I was playing that night and the roar of the crowd, and what my coaches thought about me and even what my friends thought about me, and I really craved their approval.”
After being traded to the AJHL’s Calgary Mustangs and Lloydminster Bobcats, where he struggled on both squads, he thought about giving up the sport. His father convinced him to stick it out, and Bladen found renewed success with the Waywayseecappo Wolverines in Manitoba, where he scored 17 goals and distributed 8 assists in 25 games.
“I really excelled there in the game of hockey,” Bladen said. “I started really well, and I thought my life was complete. I am scoring goals and having really good friends … which is an enjoyable part of the journey, but I still was not anywhere near where I needed to be in Christ. Even though the hockey was going well, it didn’t mean my life was going well.”
Liberty started recruiting Bladed and he committed to launch his collegiate career in Lynchburg, Va., within two weeks of talking to Head Coach Kirk Handy and his coaching staff.
“I was still stuck in the rut of really wanting success,” Bladen said. “My whole identity was found in that.”
By the end of Bladen’s sophomore year, his mentor, Club Sports Spiritual Development Assistant Brian Davidson, introduced him to the book, “The Search for Significance,” by Robert S. McGee, which pointed Bladen to a biblical outlook on life.
“Our flaws, our success, our identity, we can all find that in Him,” Bladen said. “We have been saved through Him, and as soon as I shifted my foundation from the sand and put in a biblical foundation, I know that if hockey ends tomorrow for me or it ends in 10 years, regardless, I’ll be OK, and that’s the same for my relations with family, my friends, my career, everything we do. If we can build that solid foundation of God’s truth about us, and God’s Word, we’ll be way better off.
“After realizing this, my life’s obviously still not perfect, but I’ve been able to find a lot more peace and a lot more sense of belonging, like I longed for in my past years,” he added.
Video by Patrick Strawn/Club Sports Director of Video & Media