I blew out my knee doing what I always loved, playing a game that my world revolved around. It was the end of my freshman year in college and though nearly 21 years have passed, today I found myself back in time thinking about what I experienced back then.
Yesterday I found out another girl from our school tore her ACL only a week after a young man from our church did the same. Three high school seniors, all basketball players, walking a road they didn't sign up for. My heart hurts for them.
This morning as I found myself thinking of them and praying for them too, I had a thought, "What would I say to them?" Friend, chances are you're not a high school athlete struggling with an injury, but maybe you're at a place in life where everything is changing, things aren't going like you expected or there's a bump in the road that leaves you defeated. If so, I pray these words will speak to your heart.
Friend, I know this isn't what you expected. This isn't the way you thought things would turn out. It's not the plan you had for the months to come. I know I've been there. You may be angry. I was too. You may be sad. It happened to me. You're in pain and you wonder why. Let me encourage you to deal with those emotions. Talk to a teammate, coach, friend or parent. Don't walk this road alone. Others have travelled the same path...reach out to them for encouragement, help and perspective.
Now for the part you may not want to hear. I say that because these are words that made me want to scream in the days following my injury, so scream if you want, but please hear me out. Don't just read the statement, but listen to my reasoning. OK, I'll say what I never wanted to hear - "It's just a game."
The people who said that to me weren't athletes and didn't love a game. Friend, I did. Basketball was my life...I had a shirt that said that and my thinking would have proved it. I didn't drink because of basketball. I didn't date because of basketball. I worked out for basketball. I chose my college because of basketball. Basketball was more than a game I loved, it was the god I worshiped.
I didn't do this intentionally. I never prayed to my ball or bowed down on the court, but the game was the most important thing in my life. I didn't realize this was a problem...well, until the game as I knew it was gone.
I had surgery, rehabbed and tried to come back, but for me it was never the same. (If you have dreams of returning to the court, it is possible and I pray you do!!) This void, coupled with my struggle with depression, pushed me deeper into the pit. No longer part of a team, I found myself lonely. No longer doing what I loved left me discouraged. Eventually I found myself empty and without hope.
I grew up going to church and being good. I believed in God, but I didn't live for Him. I'd heard of Jesus, but never heard from him. I spent my time reading Sports Illustrated instead of God's Word. It didn't happen over night (it actually took about 5 years), but once the idol of basketball was removed from my life I was able to see God as the One who was worthy of my worship. (Rev. 4:11)
Basketball is still a game I love and I actually coach my daughter's now, but I've learned it is just a game. A game God can use for much and we can enjoy, but something we are NOT to worship or let dictate our lives. Friend, I know you love the game, have made sacrifices and been dedicated, but it won't last forever...even the best athletes hang up their sneakers eventually.
Grieve your loss and work through it, but turn to God in your time of need. If you've never received Christ as your Lord and Savior, do that now. May what feels like your greatest loss become your biggest gain! If you have a relationship with Christ, allow this to draw you closer to Him - the friend who will never change and will always be there. Cry out to Him, share your heart and your needs. He can and will provide. He alone has the power to heal...that's not a guarantee your knee will someday be 100%, but your heart can be renewed.
Let me close with words that brought perspective following my surgery...
"Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us." Romans 5:3-5
A Christian teammate shared this passage with me and I clung to this first sentence in an attempt to find a reason for my injury. Initially the athlete in me found purpose in my injury as I was getting stronger, but after coming to Christ I realize these words say so much more. Friend, our suffering does have a purpose and God works through it to do much.
If you are struggling with a knee injury, a broken relationship or a financial issue perhaps it's an opportunity to remember who is in control - God the One who gives hope and has a plan. He is good, faithful and powerful, join me in trusting Him with all your heart.
I don't know if these words have helped, but I pray they've made you think. I also hope they remind you, you are not alone. Others have been in your shoes and God will always be at your side!
"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them,
for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you."