When I began high school, I participated on my school’s athletic team. Running was my passion—I had been a runner since I was nine years old—and I worked hard at it. I attended training sessions at least three times a week in the evenings. I even had opportunities to represent my city at Costa Rica’s national games.
Often, the practices went until late at night. That made getting up early for seminary, which started at 5:00 a.m., extra challenging, but I continued to make that sacrifice.
Halfway through high school, however, when I was 16 years old, I realized that I wasn’t putting my heart into seminary. I went, but I wasn’t as well rested, prepared, or attentive as I could have been. I also knew that being stretched thin by my very late and very early hours was affecting my physical performance, which wasn’t fair to my team.
Even though I had always thrived on participating in many activities and had been able to juggle church, academics, and sports up to that point, I no longer felt a sense of balance. I began to wonder if I needed to give something up. Running was a wholesome, healthy activity, one I was good at. It was an opportunity for me to use my talents and to establish patterns of discipline. And at my school, being an athlete was prestigious. I had good friends on my team, and if I left it, I’d miss those associations.
On the other hand, I had a goal of graduating from seminary, and I knew if I stayed on the team, I wouldn’t be able to do that.
As I weighed my decision, I thought about what would most benefit all aspects of my life, both during my high school years and for the rest of my life. I thought about my long-term goals. I realized that my attitude about seminary had implications for the rest of my life—for eternity, really. I realized what I needed to do.
At the end of my second year of high school, I told my coach and teammates that I wouldn’t be participating on the team anymore. They were shocked. No one understood why I would give up my passion for running competitively—something I had done for nearly half of my life—“to go to church at 5:00 a.m.” I explained to them that it was my responsibility and my priority and that in choosing these right things, I would be a happier person. Fortunately, even though they didn’t understand my decision, most of my peers respected it.
During the next two years of school, I had more time to read the scriptures and to ponder them. Because I wasn’t so rushed all the time, I found myself receiving inspiration more frequently. Those things gave my life balance, peace, and happiness that I had never experienced before.
At the end of high school, I graduated from seminary. That achievement meant a great deal to me. I gained a love of the scriptures and the stories and lessons they contain, I learned discipline in getting up early, and I was blessed with good friendships strengthened by that early-morning hour we spent together each day. But most important, I learned through seminary about making sure that I always put the Lord first.
That pattern continues to bless my life now as I study at a university. My classes are more difficult than they were in high school. I have more responsibilities at church. But because I established a habit of putting the Lord first, it has been easy to continue to set correct priorities, and I hope I can continue that pattern for the rest of my life.