Money Bags

“So, how do you support yourself?” This is one of the most common questions I get as an athlete. My response? “Most of the time it’s just living on a prayer.” Usually this gets a little bit of a chuckle, but really it’s the truth. Contrary to what you may believe, I don’t make much money. In fact, I don’t make any money. In my time as a biathlete in the past two and a half years, beyond having some expenses covered, I have made a whopping zero dollars.

So let me explain a little bit about how I have managed to survive for a little over two years as a biathlete making no money. While a student at CSS, I would work part time during the summer to make a little money while still training upwards of 30 hours a week. When I graduated in 2015, I continued to work part time at Riverbrook Bike Shop in Hayward to help support myself. That summer I struggled trying to balance work and training full time as a biathlete. I ran myself into the ground physically, mentally, and emotionally. I came to a crashing halt in August at Jericho Trials, sent home early from a camp questioning my ability and potential as a biathlete.

When I got back to the midwest after a demorilizing performance out east, I realized some things needed to change, and working wasn't working. One evening I was sitting on the porch of my friends cabin just praying, wondering what I was going to do. Should I quit? Should I keep working? How will I make money? As I sat there questioning, I wondered if I was really giving biathlon my all. I felt called to pursue biathlon, but was I really putting my best foot forward? The answer was no, I wasn’t. I came to the realization that if I feel called to do something, I need to be all in.

For the rest of that fall and winter, I trusted God to provide everything I needed to put my best foot forward. Everywhere I went, I met amazing people that helped me along my journey. From buying me a meal, to giving me a house to stay in for a week, or month, God used people to help me along my journey.

During that season, I started to improve and was making big strides as a biathlete. I managed to qualify for the IBU Cup where I scored points in my first race and finished the season fifth on the US points list. I thought I finally had the results to get me on a team that would give me adequate support, but God had a different plan.

That spring when team namings came out, I didn’t make the cut once again. When I realized I would again be on my own for another year I was filled with different emotions. I was pissed off and frustrated, quickly going into panic to try and make a plan. I had already drained all my funds the previous season with no reserve for another summer, much less full race season. I remember driving home from a weekend in Duluth after receiving the news, just staring at the headlights on the road in the dark of night. I thought, “How? How can I afford to biathlon for another year?” My head started getting bombarded with how much things were going to cost, and how I didn’t have the money to cover those costs. It was about this time God spoke to me, “I provided for you this last year, I will provide again.”

I could have screamed back at God in frustration, but He was right. How did I know He was right? I can't tell you if I totally believed Him at the time, but I guess that’s what faith is, because here I am writing about it.

It’s been over a year now, and I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. That summer my friends let me stay at their cabin in Hayward, giving me a place to stay in a perfect training location. I had a friend lend me a surfski to paddle, allowing me to get in some of the best workouts of the year. Random people I met donated to my fund at the most crucial of times, helping me purchase plane tickets to get to camps in Lake Placid. Throughout the summer I was able to meet so many amazing people and tell them how God was working in my life, and He wanted to work in their life too.

Now, I have to point out trusting God goes beyond waiting for someone to show up with a crisp twenty dollar bill or a delicious hot meal. Sometimes it means stepping outside of my comfort zone, and sometimes it means having my patience tested. What I mean by that is when you don’t have money, you gotta make things work with what you got.

For example, I drove out to Lake Placid a week and a half ago. I was planning on leaving Friday afternoon with my mom for Madison to meet up with my sister before departing for Lake Placid on Sunday morning. On Friday, on my way home from some errands, my car would not longer shift into first, second, fifth or reverse. One of my shift linkages on my car had busted and I had to limp my car home in third and fourth gear.

Now I have a very general sense of how a motor works, but I am no car expert. However, I have no money, so when my car breaks I gotta learn how to fix it. So for the rest of that evening, I ran around town looking for the part. I found the part in an old car at the junkyard, but my problem was I didn’t know how to disassemble it and I only had 15 minutes before the yard as closing by the time I found it. As I walked out of the yard out of time, I managed to find the schematic for the part. After staring at the schematic and scratching my head for about two hours, I went to bed not knowing how the stupid thing worked. All I knew is that I needed to fix my car for a cross country journey the next day.

That next morning, I woke up and pray, “God, help show me how to fix my car.” He just said, “Ok. First, go back to the junkyard, and I’ll help you get the part out.” So I went back to the yard and found the car that I knew had the part I needed. I did all that I could then after messing around with it for about 5 minutes, I was already getting frustrated. I started to just torque on the thing, not knowing how it was in there. After about another 5 minutes, I figured it out somehow, and just let out a big, “YIPPEE!” When I walked back to the counter to pay for my part, I was hoping the part was not going to cost much because I only had twenty bucks. Thankfully it only cost ten bucks, and I was on my way. Now that I finally understood what the schematic was trying to tell me, it took me about a half hour to put the part in and my car was road ready and within an hour and a half on was on my way.

Now, when my car broke I could have freaked, went into a frenzy trying to quickly find a shop to fix my car, and spend hundreds of dollars. I could do that, but I decided to trust God to show me how to do it for ten bucks. So as I have looked to God to provide for me for the past two years, I have learned a lot of lessons. I have had times where I’ve had to live off power bars and sleep in my car. There have also been times I have been in amazing hotels in the Alps eating some of the finest food I’ve ever had. But in both those times, God’s love has shone through in ways bigger than a great meal or a wonderful place to stay. Even when I don’t see it and questions His ways, He comes through because His love is greater than my attitude and feelings. So whatever it is that God has called you to, He will equip you for the journey.

My beloved Jetta on it's way to Lake Placid last fall

The taste of victory after finally getting the shift linkage I needed.

Quick stop at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore on my drive out to Lake Placid.

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© 2017 by Paul Schommer