For Nashville Predators forward Rocco Grimaldi, his faith in Jesus Christ has always been an intrinsic part of his life.
That faith has helped shape him in to the hockey player, and more importantly the person, he has become.
“I came to know the Lord when I was just a little kid,” Grimaldi said. “I was four years old when I accepted Jesus into my heart. Grew up in the church, grew up in a good Christian family. Mom and dad showed what a good mom and a good dad are supposed to be, what a husband and wife are supposed to look like. They modeled the Christian way for us. Both of my parents are police officers, so growing up they worked a lot to provide for us. So I would stay with my grandparents quite a bit. My grandma is one of my spiritual warriors, my prayer warriors. I’d be over at her house, my mom and dad would be working, she’d be teaching me stories and praying with me.
“She used to call me ‘her little David.’ She still does to this day. I got it from a really young age. A lot of people might say ‘Oh, you were too young to really accept.’ But I don’t believe that. I think if God calls you at two years old, three years old, 25 years old and you hear it, then that’s it. Four years old, my mom asked me if I wanted to accept Jesus into my heart to be my Lord and savior and I said ‘absolutely.”
Many Christians struggle with setting time aside on a daily basis and being intentional about spending time with the Lord and getting into the Word. That can especially be difficult for a professional athlete who spends so much time traveling and honing in on their skills, as well as dealing with the normal day-to-day personal lives that all of us have.
Grimaldi has felt called to make spending time in the Word and with the Lord a part of his daily routine, despite the business of an NHL schedule.
“I think one thing for me that I’m actually really good about is reading,” Grimaldi said. “I’ve been reading my Bible just about every day since I was in third grade. I think I was like seven or eight years old and I just felt the Holy Spirit just telling me that it was time to get to know Him besides hearing the stories in church, besides what other people have told me. And I think that’s really important. The Bible talks about it, I believe it’s in Acts, that there’s a town that Paul was preaching in and the people heard the word that was being preached. They didn’t hear it for themselves but they heard it from another person and they believed it, but then what they did is they searched the Scriptures for themselves to see if it was true. And I think God wants us to do that as well.
“We can’t just trust any person that we hear, any pastor, no matter who it is. We have to search it out for ourselves and discern what’s true and what’s not. I think that’s something that’s been engraved from a young age in me from the Lord pulling on my heartstrings to read for myself, to get to know him for myself but also from my parents, my family and my grandma telling me to search it out for myself.”
When you read the Bible, the contents of it can be very counter-cultural to what we experience in modern-day America. We want all of the answers and we want them now. We want everything given to us on our timetable. Most of the time that’s just now how the Lord operates.
“The way I look at is a lot of times, especially in our culture today and being a man, this ‘man’ culture, men are perceived as ones who don’t show emotion, that will always figure a way out of a situation, will always come through,” Grimaldi said. “When times are tough they’re just going to muck and grind it out and be a ‘man’. I think it’s interesting that the Bible is so opposite of that. When you humble yourself and you realize, on your own, life is so hard to figure out. There’s so many ups, there’s so many downs, there’s so many things that just don’t make sense. I think a lot of times when people are trying to figure out life, they’re trying to figure out if there’s a God or there’s not, I think they try to figure everything out.
“I’ve been in a relationship with Christ for over 20 years and I don’t know everything still and I never will. I think that’s something just to humble yourself to know, ‘You know what, I don’t need to know it all. I’m going to do my best to research it, to pray, to seek God out, to ask for his wisdom and he’s going to show up. And he’s going to show me things, but he’s God. Like he doesn’t need to tell me the whole story.’ Like you go to a movie or you go read a book, I don’t want to know the outcome of the movie before I see it. I want to see the whole thing. And I think that’s the same way with God. He’s sitting there and he’s got this whole movie of our lives, and I feel like one day we’re going to sit there in heaven and we’re going to watch this movie of our lives. And I don’t think he wants to tell us the outcome because where would faith come into that aspect?”
Grimaldi’s path to the NHL has been one full of tests and challenges. He became a full-time NHL player for the first time in his career during the 2018-19 season with the Predators after spending time with the Florida Panthers and Colorado Avalanche organizations.
There were times where a path to becoming a full-time NHL player wasn’t always in view for Grimaldi. But he stuck with his dream, pushed through the adversity and is now an important member of the Predators. He uses that experience as an example of what the Lord can do through times of uncertainty when you have faith in Him.
“If I knew that one day I was going to finally get a chance to play in the NHL after four or five years in the minors, yeah it may have made things a little easier but where would my faith have been?” Grimaldi said. “Where would my trust be? Where would my work ethic be because of those times? I feel like those hard times made me who I am today, and I wouldn’t trade those for the world. I know God allows things that are tough to be in our lives, allows bad things to happen to us, but they’re just to grow us. They’re to make us rely on him, to humble ourselves, like ‘Yeah, I’m a man but I can’t do it by myself.’
“I think there’s a quote that says something like ‘People think you’re weak if you admit that you need God, but in reality those who are the strongest are the ones who realize they’re not strong on their own, that they need Christ in their lives.’ Really it’s a humbling process, and it’s a continual strip away of what you think and what you believe in your own mind and just trusting God and saying ‘You know what, I don’t know it all. But you do.”