“Life can be daunting at times, but we’re called to be working forward, to progress and draw closer to the being of God, and I do that with fear and trembling, but I also do it confidently knowing I’ve been given support of the Spirit and support of the people around me.”
These are the wholesome words of Brandon Wold, a junior at Wheaton College. Double majoring in philosophy and English literature, Wold spends his free time participating in the decathlon on the men’s varsity track and field team. To anyone who doesn’t know him, he seems like an ordinary 21-year-old. However, Wold’s story and personality are far beyond the typical Millennial. His coach describes him as persistent, his friend describes him as loyal, and his roommate describes him as “serventional” – one who lives his life intentionally serving others before himself. Wold is not your typical college junior, and his story is a living example to the humble stewardship that most Christians aim to achieve.
Running the good race
A native of Andover, Minnesota, Brandon is a runner. He recalls the early days of his running career, in 3rd grade, when he chose to run laps instead of playing tag or chasing after the girls. He remembers running the 400 meter race, stalling back in last place until the last 50 meters when he could whip around to a first place finish. From early on in his life, Brandon has loved the active lifestyle. Coming into this year’s track season, he had experience with the javelin, middle-distance running, and long distance running. This season, Brandon has taken on the Decathalon – a two-day competition covering ten different events.
Wold’s life is comprised of people and events that have affected the way he thinks and looks at his life. Like many Millennials, Wold has faced his fair share of dramatic moments in life. However, he has used these experiences to shape the life that he lives today. The oldest of four children, Wold recalls when his sister was born with Down Syndrome, which would ultimately change the way that Wold thinks and interacts with people. Wold also recalls his senior year of high school, when a close friend committed suicide. The thoughts and emotions from this event would flip his world upside down, and begin a new journey as he entered college. Wold sees these moments as stepping stones to who he is today, stating, “As dramatic as they were at the time, I think they were huge in developing the person that I am and the perception that I have of people and of reality, and it has also enhanced my desire to love God and serve others.”
Up for the challenge
This past December, Wold would face another change in his life. Coming home for Christmas break, Wold found himself completely drained of energy, figuring the cause had something to do with finals week and athletic training. However, as break progressed, Wold continued to feel tired as he began to experience different symptoms such as blurred vision, fatigue, and a constant feeling of hunger and thirst. Although he was eating and drinking, his body wasn’t processing the intake. Losing ten pounds in the span of just over a week, Wold didn’t know why he was losing this weight or where the problem was stemming from. After researching his symptoms on Mayo Clinic’s website, Wold and his parents suspected that he may have diabetes. The next day, Wold got blood tests done, explaining “I maxed out the machines – they couldn’t measure how much glucose or blood sugar was actually in my system.” The doctors came back with the results from the blood test – Brandon’s pancreas had shut down. Brandon’s body was no longer producing insulin, and he could no longer process sugars or carbohydrates – elements typically used by the body as an energy source. To get energy, Brandon’s body was burning off the remaining 5% body fat that he had.
“I’m not asking the questions like ‘why me’ in this situation. If anything, I’m asking myself ‘why not me?’ If anyone is going to have to deal with a condition like this, as minor as it is, I don’t view it as being like this huge life-changing thing,” Wold said.
Coming back to school, Wold had to make a few lifestyle changes on and off the field. Seven times a day, Wold pricks his finger to check his blood glucose level to make sure it is in its target range. Additionally, Wold must put 4 injections of insulin into his body each day. During each meal, Wold must figure out how many sugars and carbs he is eating in order to determine the proper dosage of insulin, explaining, “I’ve had to give up some foods and just be much more particular with what I’m eating and when I’m eating it.”
Having Type 1 diabetes has also affected Brandon’s experience as an athlete. “I have to be much more intentional in monitoring my body. I have to be listening to the internal rhythms, I have to be honest with myself and say ‘Ok, am I going to be able to get through this workout? Am I in a target range as far as my glucose goes?” If Brandon is not on top of what his body needs, he could have a diabetic episode. In his first race back after the diagnosis, Brandon was running in a 400-meter race, finding himself in first place after the first lap. With 100 meters to go, Brandon suddenly felt his glucose level drop as he drifted out of first place. Upon crossing the finish line and on the verge of collapsing, his teammates helped him get some sugar back into his system. Looking back on the experience, Wold stated, “It was a scary experience. I did have to ask myself some hard questions regarding ‘Am I going to continue competing, and what role is athletics going to play in my life now?”
Wold wasn’t ready to give up on the gifts that God has blessed him with. “Honestly, it’s a matter of wise stewardship for me,” Wold said. He refers to passages such as Luke 19, and stated, “When I look at what I’ve been given in my life, with the opportunities such as education and athletics and just my mental capabilities – that’s a matter of stewardship, I’ve been given that, and as a responsible steward, I’m supposed to invest in those and try to seek out that potential that I’ve been given.” Wold does not live life for himself, and he makes it evident when he talks about athletics. “Every time I get up on the start line, there’s a list of people that I think through who have helped me come to that realization.” Wold thinks about his family members, friends, and mentors who have all helped him get to where he is today. Wold continued, “I see people being wise stewards in other ways… all of these people enforce and reinforce this idea that I have been given a myriad of gifts, and to not seek a high potential in everything that I can, would be irresponsibly a waste of a gift, in a sense.”
Wold continued share that he draws inspiration from his coaches and teammates. Wold also began to explain something that most athletes will never say about their opponents. “Fundamentally, I don’t look at athletes on other teams as people that I’m in contention with. To be in competition with someone is not to be in contention with them. Everyone out on that track or that cross country course is out there to develop and seek their own potential, to an essence to draw closer to that image that God has endowed within us. Their presence when I’m out there is pushing me yet further. We’re there to encourage each other, to seek that higher potential, to accomplish things we wouldn’t accomplish if they weren’t there.” Brandon Wold is not your typical athlete – his mindset is rare and admirable, something we all wish we could have but may never achieve.
“We have been entrusted with so much. We are stewards and we have been given gifts beyond what we can recognize most of the time. Through that, we are going to push through that wall… it may not make sense going through it… but in hindsight, I think that there’s a realization that always occurs, there’s a reason for why we go through what we go through, there’s a reason for the testing and the trials. I’m looking at type 1 diabetes as an opportunity, as a blessing.”
Wold is a Millennial who has plowed through the tough times and used his struggles as a chance to lean into the grace and strength of God. Wold encourages those who are going over the speed bumps of life to keep running towards the opportunities that God has provided them, stating, “Every single person is going to have moments where they’ll come up against a wall. We can look at those as either trials or opportunities. For myself, I’ve tried to come to a place where I look at them as opportunities. The Bible is very clear – ‘I will not test you beyond what you are capable’ – so when I see trials, or what I call ‘opportunities’ in my life, I realize God sees that I have this potential, and this is being put in my life so that I can realize that potential.”
Brandon Wold is an inspirational Millennial who’s actions speak just as loud as his words. Putting others before himself, Wold is a Christian athlete who literally works according to Wheaton’s motto, “For Christ and His Kingdom,” overcoming obstacles with passion and joy as he spends his life running closer to God.