Over the past week our family has been hurting a bit. Our oldest, Kayla, a.k.a. Kayla Joy, a.k.a Joy, a.k.a. baby duck suffered a devastating injury on the football pitch. After a feet first tackle by the opposing goal keeper she was left with a tibial-fibular fracture and a level of physical trauma that was quite shocking. With the excellent work of a top surgeon along with a fantastic titanium nail from Smith and Nephew, the team has put our girl back together again. Though the road to full recovery is long, we are now taking the first steps in that journey.
The injury has me thinking about and meditating on the nature of pain. And a pain in two kinds. First and most obvious is the physical pain of having you leg bones crunched in the storm of a violent collision. We have good meds for that in 2016 but the physical pain is still a shocking and present reality. Furthermore, as bone breaks go, the larger the bone the more painful when it breaks. The femur is supposedly #1 (do follow that link if you need a laugh) and the tibia is a close #2. It's hard to watch someone you love go through such things.
Yet there is a pain of a second kind that rapidly descends upon an athlete in the aftermath of injury. It arrives upon the tracks of loss and uncertainty.
Many high level athletes have literally played their sport almost their entire lives. Though only 14, our Kayla has literally played the game of football/soccer in an organized fashion for two thirds of her life. If you add in kicking balls around from a very young age, soccer had been a part of her story as long as she has literal memories. When a leg breaks part of your story breaks of suddenly as well. The regular training sessions, the games, the travel, the tournaments and the constant presence of teammates all comes to a sudden and grinding halt. It's almost as if part of you is suddenly gone. The loss is painful and the physical pain that lingers reminds you of the loss. It's no wonder that when a player is seriously injured that teammates rally to that player. The empathy and understanding of what is lost is grasped by all. And as an aside, thank you to the coaches, teammates and supportive leadership of FC Copa Academy in this time.
Along with the quick realization of loss another fear visits the soul. The doubt and uncertainty about the future. Life is suddenly changed. You cannot walk on your own. Sleeping is difficult and you have to get to the bathroom over and over and over again. With such sudden change you also begin to ask the questions: Can I come back from this? How long will it take? Will I be my old self? Will I come back better? What about my future dreams for the game? Are those in jeopardy? Who am I, really, apart from these things that I do? The spectre of uncertainty does not wait to visit the soul. That deranged spirit just lands upon you without delay. It brings a certain aching to the heart.
My wife and I, both former athletes, also feel these emotions and psychological difficulties vicariously because we have walked in these shoes. The memory of losing my final year of collegiate wrestling to a labrum tear in my shoulder comes rushing back even now. As parents, watching the physical pain and knowing the turmoil inside my girl just breaks the fatherly heart a bit.
The Christian athlete faces all of these issues and perhaps some theological questions related to providence and the sovereignty of God. Yet the Christian athlete, like my daughter have many great benefits.
- She has the great benefit of the constant grace and care of a good, good Father.
- She has a present help in the time of trouble and a strength to face fear. (Psalm 46).
- She has the great Helper (John 14:25-27) and High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16) walking with her in deepest times of need.
- She has the church family encouraging her along the way (John 13:34,35; 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11),
- She has presence of God ever with her to strengthen her heart (Isaiah 43:1-11; John 16:33; Hebrews 13:20,21) and
- She has the knowledge and contentment that "we can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13. Here it can appropriately applied to sport)
As I wrote earlier, youth sports is a great place of need for mission and the gospel; it is also a great arena for sanctification and life change. Even, no especially, in the seasons of double pain.
Love you Joy! With you #everystepoftheway