“Hit what?” you may ask.
For most people, these words probably arouse images of someone hitting an object—perhaps a baseball, tennis ball, punching bag, or even a nail. The words can also be used to describe other things. For example, according to Google, some people liken the phrase “hit it” to a random act of sex between two people who have just met. Still others use it to describe taking a hit of drugs.
I bet I have your attention now, don’t I?
For thirty years, however, the term “hit it” represented something entirely different for me. When I think of those two little words, I don’t envision an object, sex, or drugs; rather, I see a choice…a choice to try again, a choice to face an obstacle, to master a new skill, to take on a competitor, to choose perseverance, or a choice to overcome physical or emotional pain. I see two words that when spoken, enabled me to rise out of the waters of defeat to platforms of victory.
I was first introduced to the term in 1974, when I found myself floating in the Pamlico River in Bath, North Carolina. I had water skis on my feet and a rope in my hands, and I had just experienced being pulled up and down the shoreline of the shallow waters. Now it was time for me to make the decision to tell the boat driver to “hit it” and follow him out into the deep.
You would think that a four-year-old child would have some reservations about being pulled away from the safety of the shore and her family into a large, open space of water, but I didn’t. There was no fear of falling, disappointing onlookers, or failing in my endeavor. There wasn’t any doubt about my ability to have success. The only thing I remember about that day was my excitement about skimming across the top of the water.
To me, the choice was simple…I could either remain floating in the water, or I could give the boat driver the command to “hit it” and have some fun! So, with every bit of gusto I had in my little lungs, I gave the command, and off I went, out of the water and on to a thirty-year adventure that would take me all over the world and open unimaginable doors.
My parents first introduced me to the incredible world of water sports. Within a few years of my learning to water-ski, it became obvious that I was excelling in the sport rather rapidly. Our family soon found ourselves traveling across the United States, where I was able to set state, regional, national, and eventually world records.
Despite the challenges and occasional injuries, however, I loved mastering new skills, twisting and turning on top of the water. In 1983, at the age of thirteen, I received an exclusive invitation to showcase my trick-skiing skills at the prestigious US Masters Water Ski and Wakeboard Tournament held annually at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia. It was there that I entered my first international competition, competing against the top adult athletes in the world.
So much of the experience is ever so fresh in my memory…my first Master’s jacket, hearing the National Anthem echo across the lake, standing on the dock looking into my mother’s reassuring eyes as she gave me last-minute instructions, and hearing the screams of thousands of spectators as they cheered me on into the trick course. I’ll also never forget hearing my father’s distinct southern voice as he loudly yelled, “You can do it, baby!” as the boat pulled away from the dock.
I loved every minute of it! Well, almost every minute—right up until I fell flat on my face in the middle of my first trick pass. The crowd’s “Oh!” in perfect unison as I hit the water still rings loudly in my mind.
I still remember being under the water in total shock. How could this have happened? What did I do wrong? Did I hit a wave? Who put a banana peel in the middle of the lake?
Eventually my little lungs told my confused mind it was time to surface, and when I did, I had a choice to make. Should I swim to shore and quit or grab hold of the rope, tell the boat driver to “hit it,” and give everything I had on my second run? I chose the latter. I chose perseverance.
It would be two years before I had the privilege of saying “hit it!” again at the US Masters. As I waited for my second invitation to compete, I continued to press on, holding tightly to hope. I knew that if I continued to work hard, the invitation would eventually come. And it did.
In 1985, at the age of fifteen, I was given a second chance. This time I didn’t fall. Instead, I made my way to the end of both trick runs and came home the US Master’s Trick Champion. And I did it again in 1986.
I can only wonder how different my life would have been had I refused to say “hit it!” after my fall at my first Masters. What if I had given up? What if I had allowed my fear, disappointment, frustration, and embarrassment to keep me from being willing to choose perseverance?
I can tell you what wouldn’t have happened…victory would have never come. As an athlete, saying “hit it!” over and over again was without a doubt the best decision I ever made!
Yet I have to admit that saying “hit it!” wasn’t always as easy as it was in the early days. As I excelled in the sport, many challenges emerged that often opposed my desire to continue. One of the biggest challenges was the constant physical pain I experienced due to a congenital hip deformity, spinal issues, and intestinal blockages. There was also an intense, private emotional battle that often left me feeling as if I had failed in my performance, even when I was standing on top of the podium. Then, there were inconveniences such as unfair judgment calls, difficult conditions, tough competitors, and the constant pressure of staying on top. My mind was often embroiled in one big wrestling match of powerful, anxious emotions that stole much of my joy. So many times I felt like yelling “I quit it!” rather than “hit it!”
But I didn’t. In the end, no matter how many negative emotions attached themselves to those two little words, no matter how much I wanted to climb into the boat for the very last time, something (or I should say “Someone”) was always right beside me in the water, giving me the strength to choose perseverance. Somehow I found the courage to face my fears and overcome my frustrations. Why? Because I knew victory would only come if I refused to allow fear, anger, frustration, or guilt to keep me off the water. And more than anything, I wanted victory. I wanted to be the best I could be.
As an athlete, wife, mother, and ministry leader, this concept of “hit it” has helped me tremendously. In every aspect of my life, victory has only come when I was willing to get off the dock—that place of comfort—and say “Hit it!” despite my feelings, pain, or circumstances.
Making the decision to give that command hasn’t always been easy. And it never will be. I don’t care who you are or what you do, every day will present its own set of challenges—challenges that can overwhelm us with emotions, making it difficult to even imagine ourselves taking the first step out onto the water. Sometimes we may even be tempted to say, “I quit it!” in life.
Yet if we can come to a place where we are willing to say “hit it!” above all the emotions that flood our minds and above all the physical pain that ravages our bodies, victory will come. Just like in skiing, it may not come easily or quickly. In fact, it may even bring some pain. But if we choose perseverance and refuse to give up, if we continue to say “hit it!” over and over again, we will move forward to our destiny.
My experience at Robin Lake as a thirteen-year-old girl taught me a valuable life lesson: it’s not the disappointments in life that prevent success; rather, it’s what we choose to do after the disappointment that determines our level of victory.
So often when people experience a failure or encounter an obstacle, they grow discouraged and quit. If only they would get fired up rather than fizzled out!
Champions fall. Champions fail. It’s a fact in sports and in life. I’ve been described as one of the winningest female slalom skiers of all times—yet I can tell you with all certainty that I lost more competitions than I won. During my thirty-year career, I fell flat on my face over and over again. Sometimes these falls were gentle, resulting in a slow descent into the water. Other times they hurt so bad I thought I’d never recover. Some of the falls were a result of my own mistakes, while others were due to equipment failure, inclement conditions, or another person’s actions.
In the midst of all these falls, however, something amazing happened. I became a champion. At first it was on local, state, and regional levels, but then I reached the national level. Then, after years of commitment and perseverance, success came at a professional and international level as I captured every water-ski championship title and held the world record in women’s slalom for eighteen years.
Stop for a moment and think about what I just said. In the midst of my falls, I became a world champion. Isn’t it encouraging to know that despite failures, someone can move forward to claim victory at the highest level? So often people think falls prevent success; the reality, however, is that falls are stepping-stones to the top of the podium, whether in sports or in life.
As I think back to my incredible journey on the water, I can say with all certainty that my falls made the greatest impact on my career for with each fall came a new opportunity—if I was willing—to learn. Each fall presented a chance for me to master a new skill, to grow in my abilities as an athlete, and most importantly, to develop character.
Champions aren’t people who never fall or fail. Rather, they are people who choose to get up after each fall, brush themselves off (or in my case, dry herself off), and say “Hit it. A skier who commits to push past their pride, frustrations, excuses, insecurities, doubts, and fears to say “Hit it!” is a skier who is on their way to victory. The same is true in our spiritual life.
As a Christian, remembering this truth brings me great comfort. I’ve made many mistakes in my life—we all have. I’ve fallen short of God’s perfect standard every day, just like I fell on the water for thirty years! Yet, as I look at the lives of God’s champions in the Bible, I find an incredibly comforting truth: God uses people who fall. God uses people who make mistakes.
Take a look at the lives of Abraham, Sarah, David, Jonah, Noah, Moses, Paul, Peter, and Rahab, to name a few. These people weren’t perfect. They experienced fear, guilt, doubt, shame, pride, anger, jealousy, and some even lived openly immoral lives. They spoke harsh words, lied, acted rashly, ran from God, denied Him, and even committed murder. Yet God used them.
If there is one thing the above lives illustrate, it’s that God isn’t looking for perfect people. He isn’t looking for those who have it all together or who under no circumstances make mistakes. He’d never find them! Rather, God is looking for perseverance and passion. People who are humble enough to admit their mistakes and their need for God, who will listen and learn from Him, and move forward despite their weaknesses. God is looking for people who will choose to say “Hit it!” to Him over and over again. And through those people…through you and through me… God can change the world!
Isn’t that something? Think about it: a perfect God actually chooses to use imperfect people to impact the world for all eternity! It’s mindboggling, yet true. How grateful and humbled I am to have been extended an invitation to be on His team. And that same invitation is extended to you, too.
Will you accept it? Will you say, “hit it” to God? Will you choose perseverance? Your life will never be the same.
By Kristi Overton Johnson (excerpt from the book Hit It!)