May24WedMay 24, 2017
By David Booth
I am spoiled. I don’t think there has been a greater realization since spending time in Russia. Having the opportunity to live and play throughout Russia has opened my eyes to how much I take for granted in life. I am very thankful for my time here and wouldn’t trade it for anything. And this isn’t because it has been an easy experience. Living in Russia has been very challenging and humbling.
Honestly, I needed to experience this lifestyle after playing the NHL for so many years. Playing in the NHL blessed me with so much, but it also gave me a sense of entitlement. Every NHL player is elevated to idol status with other people taking care of our every need. After 10 years of constantly having anything I needed, it became a way of life for me without even realizing it. I became engulfed in self centeredness, and I could not even see it happening. I was unknowingly living the epitome of what C.S. Lewis calls the safest road to hell.
The safest road to hell is the gradual one - the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.
My goal was, and still is, to play in the NHL; but I believe God brought me to Russia to teach me some much needed lessons. Each time I felt as though my dreams were shattered, I look back and see God’s perfect plan in my life. I saw that during my concussion recovery, and I see it now as I continue my career in the KHL.
I was incredibly frustrated when I first came to Russia. The things that got under my skin are such American problems. For instance consider these: I got irritated that I wasn’t able to find gluten free bread or have a meal without cream and butter! The grocery stores mostly consisted of items months past the expiration date. Russian techno is the one and only playlist in the locker room. That’s been hard for a country music fan. We have a respect for seniority in the NHL, that doesn’t exist in the KHL. KHL workouts are completely different from what I’ve been taught. And finding a good massage therapist to help with recovery is next to impossible. As well, we don’t fly first class on planes or out of private airports. We are required to spend our Home game days in a hotel. No one could understand me because of the language barrier. The sidewalks and roads haven’t been fixed since the foundations were laid so many years ago.
When I looked back on how frustrated I was, it struck me how these things would not even cross a Russian’s mind. They would never consider those things a problem, much less get bent out of shape about them. But for me, I felt like I wasn’t going to make it through the season. It was suffocating.
Now I understand how to live and enjoy these differences… and just how much I needed them in my life.
I am reminded of how God taught his people valuable lessons through 40 years (not 6 months!) wandering in the wilderness. They needed to be humbled and trust him. No doubt that I needed humbling. I still do.
““Make certain that you do not forget the LORD your God; do not fail to obey any of his laws that I am giving you today. When you have all you want to eat and have built good houses to live in and when your cattle and sheep, your silver and gold, and all your other possessions have increased, make sure that you do not become proud and forget the LORD your God who rescued you from Egypt, where you were slaves. He led you through that vast and terrifying desert where there were poisonous snakes and scorpions. In that dry and waterless land he made water flow out of solid rock for you. In the desert he gave you manna to eat, food that your ancestors had never eaten. He sent hardships on you to test you, so that in the end he could bless you with good things. So then, you must never think that you have made yourselves wealthy by your own power and strength. Remember that it is the LORD your God who gives you the power to become rich. He does this because he is still faithful today to the covenant that he made with your ancestors. Never forget the LORD your God or turn to other gods to worship and serve them. If you do, then I warn you today that you will certainly be destroyed.”
It is too easy to point fingers at others’ faults, problems, inadequacies. Russia wasn’t the problem. The way they do things in the KHL wasn’t the problem. I was… and still am… the problem. I have to continually examine myself; and when I compare myself to how I should be living out God’s Word, I see all the areas in which I am broken.