Brandi Rhodes: You know, it didn’t really register with me until I announced at my first WrestleMania, and that’s when a lot of people started throwing stats around because there’s so much news around this and stuff. And I guess that’s when people looked into it and said, “Hey, is she the first one to do this?” And the answer was yes. So it’s something that’s really cool and I’m really proud of. And there are a lot of firsts for me in wrestling.
Rooting Our Identity in Christ: Brandi Rhodes & Dr. Sasha Shillcutt – Episode #254
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. The concept of identity is a lofty one to wrap our minds around, and we are often encouraged to make our identity align with who God has created us to be. But how do we do that in real life? It often takes a situation beyond our control, where we feel over our heads, to get us to a point where we realize we have to realign our priorities. It’s there, in that space, that we often find God, and we see clearly what He wants for us.
Our guests this week are All Elite Wrestling star Brandi Rhodes who is the wife of wrestler Cody Rhodes and daughter-in-law of the legendary Dusty Rhodes. Brandi shares how faith and family played a role in forging her into the strong woman she is today.
And we also have renowned cardiac anesthesiologist and TEDx speaker Dr. Sasha Shillcutt, who discusses the difficulties of juggling the roles of mom and being a physician, and how she found the balance by developing a spiritual practice of seeking God daily for thirty minutes.
First up, let’s hear Brandi’s story.
So I had a very unique upbringing in Michigan, I wouldn’t change it for the world. My family, before I was born, lived in a town called Inkster, Michigan. And if you think about any town where gentrification is happening, many years ago, they got their house and they got a good price. And we were just hoping that 50/50, it was going to turn really good or really bad. Unfortunately, the coin went the wrong way. The neighborhood went really bad.
So for me, the norm of growing up was I didn’t play outside past a certain time. I didn’t leave my yard. So my family, realizing that, they put my brother and me in a Christian school, and I was in that school until eighth grade. So I had a really, really core upbringing in church and Christianity. And I love that because it was a situation, at least back then, where everybody was okay with everybody. We had all kinds of people across the board at that little school. Everyone was accepted, and we learned so much. I think that alone is the reason why I continue to pursue faith today.
“I had a really, really core upbringing in church and Christianity. And I love that because it was a situation, at least back then, where everybody was okay with everybody. We had all kinds of people across the board at that little school. Everyone was accepted, and we learned so much. I think that alone is the reason why I continue to pursue faith today.” – Brandi Rhodes
I think I was always athletic, I mean, it’s hard to tell with a four-year-old how athletic they actually are. But when I got into elementary school and started playing sports here and there, I was usually a standout. And a lot of times I think that’s because I was tall. I was taller than everybody in my class.
A Love for Figure Skating
Being in that neighborhood, I was about four years old, and there wasn’t anything going on sports wise for kids. My mom and I had watched the Winter Olympics together, and I loved it. So she decided to take me to the closest ice arena. She says I never wanted to get off the ice. And then the next seventeen years, that was my life. Every single day, seven days a week, I skated. I absolutely loved it, loved the competitive nature of it, loved the friendships that I had through it. I, to this day, take a lot of the coaching that I had through the years with me to what I do now.
So my faith, I’m very kind of protective of it. I think that this is actually the first interview that I’ve done that I really spoke openly about it, because it’s not something that comes up a lot in the entertainment realm. But you know, moments that I felt the most closeness have been moments like one of the biggest skating competitions I ever did. I actually was nervous. Usually, I don’t get very nervous, but I actually was very nervous because my coach at the time was Christopher Bowman. He was an Olympic athlete. He was just an amazing, amazing person with an awesome personality and so much talent. But, you know, he was famous. So he had Dateline come to this competition that I was already really, really nervous about. And it just sent me through the roof, like I was just so nervous because there are these cameras looking at me and I know it’s going to be on TV. And this is my first time competing at the senior level. It was a lot of pressure on me.
And I remember there was about maybe one person was still ahead of me. My coaches are just barking all the stuff at me like, “Try to just keep jumping up and down!” And there’s a moment before you actually go to your spot and start your program. The other person comes off and you get on, and then you’ve got maybe a minute to kind of skate around and warm your legs up and everything. And I got on the ice, and my legs felt like jello. And I was like, Oh, no. And I remember I just prayed that whole time that I was just warming up around, God, please be my legs. I can’t feel them. This is important. I really need You right now.
That was the best I ever skated in my entire life. We have video of it, and I’m crying through the entire thing because I don’t feel like I’m doing it. I feel like He’s doing it, and it’s just amazing. I had never skated that well before.
“I remember I just prayed that whole time that I was just warming up around, God, please be my legs. I can’t feel them. This is important. I really need You right now. And that was the best I ever skated in my entire life.” – Brandi Rhodes, on prepping for one of her biggest skating competitions as a young adult
A New Career
Wrestling always seemed to be something that was just an area of entertainment that would not be achievable for me, which was fine because I was fully focused on figure skating. But my brother—I have an older brother, Jason. He’s four years older than me. He loved wrestling when we were growing up, so I would watch with him. And I still to this day, remember a lot of the people that I used to watch and all of my favorites back then, and it’s been surreal to grow up and work with some of them. But it started there.
Then I was in Miami ,and I had this pipe dream forever to leave Michigan, because I really don’t like cold weather. I just can’t stand it. And I spent my whole life there, so I wanted to get out. I moved to Miami, and that is where I started doing a lot of modeling. I was absolutely loving it, kind of building a career, and then suddenly just got this call from one of my agents saying, “Don’t hang up.”
So I was like, “Okay, that’s a great start.”
She said, “Would you ever be interested in doing wrestling?”
And I was like, “Wrestling?”
She said, “Just watch one episode and see if it changes your mind.”
I watched an episode of Smackdown, and I was quasi-hooked because I was like, Well, you know, this is a lot different. These women are being taken seriously. They’re having their own competitive matches.
They invited me then to live one of the pay-per-views that was happening in Miami, and I just fell in love with it. I mean, I think the first time the pyrotechnics went off, I was like, Wow, I’m home. This is amazing. I remember going backstage after that to talk to the talent relations at WWE. And I said, “Yeah, when do I start?” So I moved to Tampa, started training, and very, very fast track got ahead because of my speaking ability, which is something that I take for granted because I’ve done it for so long and just kind of like, “If you want me to go out there and announce I can do that.”
They’re like, “Really, in front of 20,000 people? It doesn’t make you nervous?”
“No, I’m more nervous talking in front of five people than I am 20,000 people. That’s fine.”
So that was the beginning of everything.
You know, wrestling is one of those things that I feel like it touches you differently when you see it live. You can scroll through and watch, and I think it can be intimidating for people because we’ve got crowds of people who’ve been watching this for their entire childhoods and now they have kids and their kids are watching it. But it’s one of those things that if you get a chance to watch it live, you will connect in some way. And that was what did it for me, for sure. I like the atmosphere, the beauty of it. You notice the athleticism has come such a long way from what it was back in the eighties when I was watching. And it’s just a really, really cool sport.
And the company that I work for now, AEW, we’re really focused on the sports-centric elements of it. At the very, very forefront of it is really, really talented, high-speed athletes doing what they do best. And it just really blows people away most of the time.
A Legacy of Wrestling
So the Rhodes family is considered wrestling royalty. I had met Dusty before I met Cody because Dusty was a trainer at FCW, which was Florida Championship Wrestling. That’s where they would send everyone to train before they actually started traveling week to week and being on live TV. So Dusty was one of the trainers there, and he and I just took a liking to each other and had kind of a special relationship. I think that’s because when I came in, I couldn’t do anything. I didn’t know how to even fall down properly, but I could talk because I’ve been doing it for so long. And Dusty is arguably the best promo in wrestling on the mic ever.
And then I went up on the road very soon after starting training because of the announcing, and I met Cody for the first time in an office in one of the arenas. And then he just casually one day asked me if I would like to go out to dinner after the show. I said, “No, thank you. I really appreciate it. Maybe next time.” And then he just never stopped. After that, everything just kind of came to be for us.
We got engaged very quickly. I think we had only been together for about a year when we got engaged, and then we got married less than a year after that. And here we are. We’ve been married seven years.
Brandi Finds Her Voice
My husband’s been doing this for fifteen years. And before every big match, he’s nervous and I can tell he’s nervous and he’ll tell me, like, “I’m just really nervous,” and I’m just like, “Okay, I don’t understand that. But I empathize with you because you’re fantastic. You’ve been doing this forever and you know this like the back of your hand,” where it’s me who hasn’t been doing it that long.
When I was younger, I wasn’t the most confident. I was pretty shy. And there were a lot of things in the back of my mind that I allowed to come into play. And I kind of kept it internalized. But then there is the point of time when you need to speak up and you need to make sure your voice is heard.
Narrator: Brandi closes her time with us by reading a passage from Jesus Calling.
Brandi: Jesus Calling, July 1st:
I AM LIFE AND LIGHT IN ABUNDANCE. As you spend time “soaking” in My Presence, you are energized and lightened. Through communing with Me, you transfer your heavy burdens to My strong shoulders. By gazing at Me, you gain My perspective on your life. This time alone with Me is essential for unscrambling your thoughts and smoothing out the day before you.
Be willing to fight for this precious time with Me. Opposition comes in many forms: your own desire to linger in bed; the evil one’s determination to distract you from Me; the pressure of family, friends, and your own inner critic to spend your time more productively. As you grow in your desire to please Me above all else, you gain strength to resist these opponents. Delight yourself in Me, for I am the deepest Desire of your heart.
Narrator: To keep up with Brandi Rhodes, follow her blog and also on social media, and be sure to check out the upcoming All Elite Wrestling events.
Stay tuned to Dr. Sasha Shillcutt’s story after a brief message.
Jesus Calling TV Show – Back for Season 2!
Jesus Calling is back for Season 2 of the TV Show Jesus Calling: Stories of Faith, which premieres on May 18th. This season is hosted by Susie McEntire-Eaton and features so many wonderful stories from artists, celebrities, sports figures and more. You won’t want to miss these real-life stories from people like football legend Kurt Warner, country superstar Reba McEntire, Worship singer David Crowder, and beloved coach Tony Dungy—and many more. Tune in every Tuesday and then again on Sunday starting May 18th, on Circle TV. For more information on how to get the show via cable or on streaming services, visit Circleallacess.com.
Our next guest is renowned cardiac anesthesiologist and TEDx speaker Dr. Sasha Shillcutt. When Sasha was juggling trying to be a mom and a physician, she reached a place of burnout and identity conflict. When she felt like she was being a good doctor, she felt like she wasn’t being a good mom, and vice versa. In order to get her priorities in line with who God created her to be, she dedicated thirty minutes a day to herself for a year, and got herself back on an authentic, spiritually-ordained track. She’s now the CEO of an organization called Brave Enough, through which she encourages over 10,000 female physicians to live confident, courageous, and connected lives.
Dr. Sasha Shillcutt: My name is Dr. Sasha Shillcutt, and I’m a cardiac anesthesiologist and professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. And I also run a large organization for women called Brave Enough. I am a Midwest girl, grew up in the Midwest, now live in Omaha, Nebraska. I have four wonderful children and a wonderful husband named Lance.
Pursuing a Medical Career
I grew up with a large family, with five girls, and I always had a desire to pursue the sciences. I loved math and science, and thought, What could I do where I am helping people, but I also am studying and really applying the sciences? And so probably in high school, I decided I was going to pursue a career as a physician. So you take on these dreams when you’re very young, and you’re not really thinking about how that’s going to play out in reality. But I went to college, was pre-med, went to medical school after college, and then chose anesthesiology.
I had the amazing honor of being raised in a very strong Christian home where faith was really the center of everything we did. I always had a very strong faith in Christ. And I identified from an early age that was who God has called me to be, someone who was really strong and really courageous to do things that I didn’t think I could do on my own.
In those early years in my training, I also started a family. And I think that I hadn’t really thought about when I made the decision to go into medicine, how having a family was going to affect my ability to be a doctor, or how being a doctor was going to affect my ability to be a mom.
I always depended on my faith to be central to what I did, whether it was achieving in college or in medical school or residency. The problem is that what happened, I think, is that I stopped—when I went into medicine, medicine is a very male-dominated field. There’s very few women leading. We only have about seven percent of leaders in healthcare are women, top leaders. So everyone that I was trying to emulate to be a good leader was a man, and they were great leaders, but they were not women with young kids at home. And so there was a disconnect for me. And what happened is, instead of really listening to who God was calling me to be, I tried to focus on being like these men. And I was constantly in conflict because when I would get success at work, it would conflict with my priorities at home. And so it took me probably a decade to realize that I needed to embrace who God called me to be as a leader, as a woman, as a mom. There is a season for everything, and I don’t have to achieve in the same way that some of my male colleagues are.
What happened was I just started achieving, achieving, achieving, because I’m a type A personality. I’m a high achiever. And I really found myself burned out to the place where I thought, Okay, I’m failing at everything. I felt like I was failing as a mom. And when I would spend time trying to be the best mom I could be, I felt like I was failing as a physician. And so I think this is something that happens to a lot of women. And I recognized how isolated I was, how I had really drifted away from the person God had called me to be. That is not how I define success. And that’s not who God called me to be, God called me to be Sasha. And so I reorganized some priorities, made some difficult decisions, and really set some healthy boundaries about my professional life and my personal life. And then that’s how I kind of started Brave Enough and started my organization to help other women so that they don’t burn out and they don’t get to the same place I was.
“I felt like I was failing as a mom. And when I would spend time trying to be the best mom I could be, I felt like I was failing as a physician. I think this is something that happens to a lot of women. I recognized how isolated I was, how I had really drifted away from the person God had called me to be.” – Dr. Sasha Shillcutt
A Year in the Desert
I had the awesome opportunity to really take a year and kind of go back to my roots, and that’s what I call the year in the desert. So after I really got to a place of severe burnout where I would go to work, and I would not even know how I was going to get through my day because I was so exhausted and overwhelmed and feeling like a failure as a mom and a doctor. I realized God was calling me to go back to my roots and start in the morning, get up, and just spend time either reading my Bible, reading a devotion…
I read the [Jesus Calling] devotional. I used to love reading it. And, you know, then I started listening to the podcast and the audio, and I had the [Jesus Calling] app because it was something that I could do every day and feel connected. And so I think I’ve always loved it. I loved the devotion and I loved the message of hope.
You know, there’s so much negative that we hear and see in our world. Your mind lives in the spaces you go. And so I think it’s easy for us to kind of forget that if we’re feeling down, if we’re feeling discouraged, if we’re feeling negative, if we’re feeling overwhelmed, we can take our mind to places of hope where Christ is calling us. And that’s what I love about it.
It was in those moments I just committed myself to myself thirty minutes a day. That’s what I did, to commit to just going internal and looking inside and going, How have I drifted so far from the authentic person God has called me to be?
Over that year, I really rebuilt who it was God had called me out to be. And I recognized that there were several things. The first thing was I had to get back to taking care of myself. I was so addicted in many ways to the busyness of taking care of my kids, taking care of my patients, and not taking care of my spiritual life and my physical self. So I started taking care of myself, and I started looking at my commitments and how overcommitted I was, which required me to have some courage because I had to have some difficult conversations at work and change some priorities. I also had to ask for help, which is not something that comes easy for me.
And through that I recognized how lonely I was, how I had really isolated myself from other women because I wanted to give this facade of perfection. I knew if anybody got close to me, they would see that it was not perfection. I was quite a mess.
So I had really kind of put up walls, and I just started small. I asked a group of ten women if they wanted to make a text group where we encouraged each other and sent positive messages to each other. And sometimes those were scriptures. Sometimes they were quotes from books. Sometimes I would just share what I had journaled about. That grew to a Facebook group which grew to thousands and thousands of women into the organization I lead now.
Women, I think in the middle of their life, when they’re trying to raise a family and have a career, perhaps start a business, be an entrepreneur, volunteer in their community, all these things that are really required of us in the middle of our life, we can convince ourselves that friendship with other women or support or peer support from other women is not really a necessity. But I think we heal in community, we grow in community. And so that’s how what my company does now, I have courses and classes and I’m really committed to helping women move from a place of exhaustion and overwhelm and busyness and stop being addicted to that and kind of move into living in the moment, spending time every day on their own personal well-being, spending time on their spirituality, spending time with their kids and their spouse and really investing into things and stop this kind of mentality that we have to achieve, achieve, achieve all the time. I learned so much from the women that are in the community, and I’m encouraged so much by how they support one another.
When you bring women together from diverse backgrounds, you recognize that so many of our trials and tribulations are similar, and we may be in different stages of our life or different phases, different states, different countries even. But we often face the same struggles.
“When you bring women together from diverse backgrounds, you recognize that so many of our trials and tribulations are similar, and we may be in different stages of our life or different phases, different states, different countries even. But we often face the same struggles.” – Dr. Sasha Shillcutt
I think sometimes when our lives are very hectic or our mind is messy or we’re struggling, we don’t want to be by ourselves. We would rather numb out to Netflix or scroll social media because we are exhausted. But your mind is really craving that space to be alone, and God meets you there often.
It’s not like all of your problems disappear when you start spending time with yourself, but you gain clarity to what is going on in your life and what you need to perhaps either change, and then the second thing is what often happens is you find clarity about what you need to ask for help. And sometimes that might be asking God for help, but sometimes it’s asking someone, a person, for help.
Leaning on Christ in Crisis
There are times as a doctor that it’s 3:00 in the morning and I’m in the operating room, and I don’t know the next thing I should do to help a patient. I don’t know the best thing. I’m not sure we’re gonna make it out of the operating room. I’m struggling. And I can tell you in those moments, what I lean on is Christ. I lean on God. And I trust that He has prepared me with expertise and knowledge to do the best right thing, the next thing, and those are the times where I depend on Him the most. It’s also times in my life where I’m standing at a fork in the road with my career and I don’t know if I should choose A or B, and I think, Lord, which one should I do? And it’s those moments where I always feel His right hand upon me.
“There are times as a doctor that it’s 3:00 in the morning and I’m in the operating room, and I don’t know the next thing I should do to help a patient. I don’t know the best thing. I’m not sure we’re gonna make it out of the operating room. I’m struggling. And I can tell you in those moments, what I lean on is Christ.” – Dr. Sasha Shillcutt
I pray that when I show up, I will affect the people in the room. Sometimes that’s two people, sometimes that’s a thousand people. But I ask that God will just help me bring kindness and clarity wherever I go, because the world is hard right now and there’s a lot of anger and anxiety. And I just want to be a person that can bring clarity and kindness. Lord, first, let me get through the day, Lord, and wherever I am, let me be kind and let me bring clarity.
“I pray that when I show up, I will affect the people in the room. Sometimes that’s two people, sometimes that’s a thousand people. But that God will just help me bring kindness and clarity wherever I go, because the world is hard right now and there’s a lot of anger and anxiety. And I just want to be a person that can bring clarity and kindness.” – Dr. Sasha Shillcutt
I think that now, you know, obviously I feel very at peace with who I am. And I know my mission. I know the passion God has put in my heart. But I think it was easy for me to get distracted because while I was trying to achieve something good and something noble, it was not God’s calling for me at that time.
If you’d like to hear more stories about rooting our identity in God, check out our Peace For Everyday Life video with Rolene Strauss, available on the Jesus Calling YouTube channel.
Narrator: Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, we look forward to speaking with international speaker and activist Christine Caine about the power of prayer.
Christine Caine: Prayer is our ultimate connection with the God of the universe. That He would afford us the privilege of prayer, if that doesn’t blow your mind, I don’t know what does. The God that spoke this world into being invites us into ultimate communion with Him through the privilege of prayer. And, you know, I have found in my life that prayer moves God, and when God is moved, God can move mountains.