Sharing 15 minutes of fame with God
Thursday, Mar 8, 2012
By Kelsey Deans
ATHENS, Ga. (BP)--The measured click of crutches on the student center's tile floor echoed across the open space as Anna Watson, a 21 year old cheerleader at the University of Georgia, made her way to a small table in the middle of the room. Students who recognized Watson's toned physique and long blonde ponytail from the sidelines of football games and her recent appearances on national TV turned to watch her slow progress.
Not long after she sat down, a student at a nearby table leaned over with obvious excitement to tell Watson how much she admired her and the way she had represented the school's athletes during her appearance on Good Morning America the previous week.
Watson, who has similar conversations almost daily, simply smiled and said 'thank you.'
"The attention is great and it's nice to be recognized, but at the same time I just pray that the Lord keeps me humble," Watson said. "Because He is the one who worked all this into motion, you know, I did nothing to get here, and I know that everything I have comes from Him, so I can't take ownership of it."
Watson became an overnight campus celebrity after the UGA student newspaper, The Red and Black, published a story about her refusal to take steroids to bulk up for a $75,000 fitness modeling contract. Producers at CNN, ESPN and other national news programs pounced on Watson's story, sending reporters and camera crews to follow her to class and to the gym. Like other believers thrust suddenly into the spotlight, Watson has struggled to tell her story without taking too much credit for circumstances she says only God could have orchestrated. Now that the news cycle has rolled by, Watson says she hopes people will remember God's story more than her own.
Watson grew up in Fayetteville, Ga., just south of Atlanta, where she started competing in cheerleading and gymnastics events in elementary school. She spent her freshman year in college cheering at Hawaii Pacific University, but when she lost her scholarship due to the school's budget cuts, she transferred to the University of West Georgia, in Carrollton, for her sophomore year. Not long after the start of her first semester there, Watson got an email from a scout at an international agency who thought she had potential as a fitness model.
Despite already having sculpted arms and legs, definition most men would envy, the agency told Watson she would need to put on an additional 50 pounds of muscle before they would sign her contract. Throughout the rest of the year, Watson did everything she could to bulk up, eating when she wasn't hungry and spending 90 minutes in the gym each day. But it wasn't enough. The scout recommended she try Anavar, a legal anabolic steroid, and sent her pictures of another model who was taking the drug.
Although Watson knew she would lose her modeling contract if she didn't take the steroid, she just couldn't do it. She thought about Daniel, who refused to eat the king's choice food because he believed it would defile his body. He ate vegetables and drank water instead, and at the end of a designated period of ten days, he was stronger and healthier than any of the men who ate the king's royal food.
"I felt like that was kind of my story," Watson said, "I knew what God had given me and how He had created me, and by putting those steroids into my body it would defile what He had created in the temple that my body is."
Even though it was hard to give up the money that came with the modeling contract, Watson is convinced that God is pleased with her decision, and that knowledge is more valuable to her than any contract could ever be, she said.
At the beginning of this school year, Watson transferred to the University of Georgia, in Athens, where she is studying exercise and sports science. She made the spirit squad during late tryouts and joined her fellow cheerleaders on the sidelines for three home games. But her plan to compete in a national cheerleading competition with the squad ended earlier this month when she tore her Achilles' tendon during a warm-up practice.
Watson had surgery a few weeks ago but does not expect to be fully recovered for a year. She hopes to cheer next year, but probably won't be ready to rejoin the squad until mid season.
Despite the setbacks of losing the modeling contract, the pain of her injured ankle and the uncertainty of her future as a cheerleader, Watson says she remains joyful because of the hope she has in Christ.
"My hope is in the Lord and that's where my identity lies," she said. "It's not in being a cheerleader; it's not in being physically fit; it's not in being athletic. It's in the hope that I know that when I die I'm going to be in Heaven with Jesus. That is my refuge and that is my rock."
Being sidelined has helped Watson discover she can find satisfaction in God alone and not in anything in the world. It's also helped her to understand in a more real way that God is in complete control of her life, she said.
"A lot of people try to find satisfaction in the world," she said. "They think that money or wealth or fame or accomplishments are going to make them happy, but the Lord has shown me that joy is something that can't be found in the world. It's not something that people can create on their own."
No matter what happens in her future, Watson hopes her testimony now brings God more glory.
"It's humbling and it's exciting at the same time to know that people recognize what I did and what the Lord has done through me, and that's what I want," she said. "I want to make Him famous through all this and not me."
This article originally appeared on the website www.WORLDonCampus.com. It is reprinted with permission.
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