“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” – Proverbs 19:21
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” We’ve all been asked this question at some point as a kid. Answers could range from being an astronaut or doctor to a zookeeper or superhero. Whatever explanation we had, we probably had a period where we truly believed that was what we were going to be, but that phase probably came and left as we got older. However, I believed in my answer from 5th grade until I was well out of high school. I wanted nothing more than to be a race car driver, and for a while, I was blazing my own path (with the help of my family and sponsors) to fulfilling that dream, until everything changed and I let God have control over what I was controlling for so long.
I grew up in a small North Texas town where high school football is king in a family with its roots deep in motorsports. My Grandpa drag raced, and both he and my Dad raced motocross, so it was a high probability that my brother and I would grow up working on and pushing the limits of something with an engine and two or four wheels. I found my passion and life in racing when I started racing karts at the age of eleven. I quickly had success, piling up wins and track championships before eventually moving up to sprint cars. This is what ultimately led me to Indiana from Texas just after I graduated High School in 2015. The success I was having led to me to drive for the late Bryan Clauson, who is, in my opinion, the best sprint car and midget driver in USAC history. Indiana is the mecca you go to if you want to make it in racing and that’s why I was coming here, to do precisely that.
Solomon writes in Proverbs 19:21, “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” I had my life all planned out, or so I thought. I was going to race for one of the best USAC sprint car and midget teams, Bryan Clauson Racing, make my Mom happy by getting a Mechanical Engineering degree from IUPUI while still racing, and I was going to continue finding my worth and identity in the satisfaction that racing gave me. I grew up in a Christian home and went to Church my entire life, so in my mind, I was doing all of this with 1 Corinthians 10:31 as my motto, to glorify God, but I wasn’t truly trusting God with this and placing Him above everything. I had made a god, an idol, out of racing and the self-gratification that it gave me. It was about the time that I thought that my path to being an established full-time driver was finally starting to gain traction that my idol of racing came slowly crashing down. I lost my main sponsor, which caused me to lose funding for that season. Having trouble securing enough funding for the 2016 season, I was left with very little chance of racing. I decided to just help the race team with Bryan’s sprint car and midget for that year and learn more by observing a legend in the sport, while also focusing more on my studies. Then everything really changed in August of that year when Bryan was tragically killed in a crash at a USAC midget race in Belleville, KS. I was already discouraged with my own chances of racing that year, and now, the guy who I (and many others) looked up to as one of the greatest, had died doing what I aspired to do.
I remember my faith being tested and constantly questioning God. “Why am I here, God?!” “I thought this was where You were leading me?!” But like James 1:2-4 states, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” It was through all of this that God was working in me to make me a new creation in Christ. After all of this happened, I took a step back from racing entirely and focused on getting my M.E. degree. I found a Church home and met a guy at IUPUI, with whom I started studying the Bible. I was growing in my faith. As I did, my eyes were open to how prideful of a man I had been. I was blessed to get an internship to start gaining experience as an engineer, but the more experience I got, the more I felt like engineering wasn’t what I was meant to do. I was again left searching for my purpose. I never thought that I would ever enjoy being around and leading a group of middle school-aged boys, but when I started serving in student ministry at my Church and seeing how God was working in these students’ lives, I discovered a new passion that God had led me to. I’m in my final semester at IUPUI, and I’m looking at a completely different life then I had imagined when I moved to Indiana and started at IUPUI 4 years ago.
Jesus tells us that He is Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). It’s through Jesus that I have found purpose in my life, not through my own selfish desires that this world tells us to follow. The world will tell you to just “follow your heart” (eye roll), but I know from experience that following your heart doesn’t lead to anything good. Following Jesus is the only WAY that leads to a joyful and satisfactory LIFE. My life now is far better than it has ever been, and that’s because of the change God has done in my life. In Romans 8:6, Paul writes, “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” Oh, how great the peace is that only comes from the Holy Spirit.
Payton Pierce, IUPUI Senior