What a ride it’s been. Like racing downhill on a bike, through a forest, with no brakes.
That’s what this semester has been like dating back to late-August report dates for student-athletes through basketball games on Saturday, December 19.
Twists, turns, collisions, unexpected detours and a quest to get through about a four month span of limited fan attendance, testing, advance ticket sales, no fans allowed, competitions, positive tests, illness, vastly different opinions, etc, etc……you name it, it feels like we’ve seen it.
And how do I tie the feelings of the last semester into this Behind the Shield entry.
An entry filled with questions, frustrations, some answers, but still some questions.
Well, it’s December 23 as I sit at my desk and write this.
Christmas is here.
Somewhere in the midst of everything we’ve experienced in the last year I’m trying to be still.
I’m trying to live in the knowledge that every day for believers is Christmas and every day is Easter–that we know the ending to the story even though it feels like we are in the middle of the book.
And that’s what I’d say after reading Sarah Krysl’s entry.
She has faith she knows the ultimate ending to the story.
She understands the role of athletics.
She understands injury.
She understands pivoting and adjusting.
She knows what her comfort in life and death (and injury) is—(Heidelberg Q and A #1 reference here).
She knows struggle, and, I hope eventually, triumph.
Here’s to the next chapter. I hope Sarah finds her way on to the soccer field in Spring 2021, but more so, I hope for peace for her and the many like her as we work our way through our stories in 2021.
The night before surgery, December 5th of 2019, I was laying in my bed with an ice pack on my head and an overwhelming feeling of nausea. I was experiencing the worst headache I have ever had in my life. The kind that only comes from copious amounts of stress, skipping meals, minimal sleep, and countless other things I was forcing my body to do. As I lay, I lay frustrated and confused.
I did not understand how this type of experience was happening the evening before my surgery when I wasn’t supposed to take most medicines.
I didn’t understand how this type of thing could happen to me in general. It wasn’t like I hadn’t been stressed before or hadn’t skipped meals before.
I had never felt this type of pain before, and I didn’t understand why it could happen that night of all nights. This type of thing didn’t normally happen to me. But then again, I wasn’t supposed to tear my ACL, MCL, and meniscus either.
A month earlier, on November 2nd, I sat on the couch in my apartment the night after my injury. I was flexing my leg in determination; I WAS going to play in the game on Saturday. It wasn’t until I was struggling to bend my knee to 120 ֯ that I looked at my boyfriend and said, “I’m not playing in that post season game, am I?” He simply shook his head and confirmed my suspicions; I sank back on the couch in defeat. That was the first of countless similar lessons to come my way in the next year. I was introduced to a very important concept that day. It was a lesson that would strain who I was over and over. Each time I learned it, I could feel my identity cracking. I learned that I am finite.
I wish I could say that I learned my lesson the first couple times and that the painfulness of each new and hard experience faded, but the lessons continued. They came knocking again in January when I sat with my roommates panicking as I desperately tried to figure out how I was going to change my major, take 18 credits, work, do PT every day, attend every soccer practice, and make sure that I graduated on time – my roommates helped me figure out that I was unable to do all of these things.
The lesson came again in March when I was sent home from school having to find a new PT, a gym that was open to continue my workouts, and an internship while being quarantined on two separate occasions in the middle of a pandemic. These are just of a few of the countless times where I was met with the reality of my finiteness, and I did not like it.
Pretty early on in my recovery journey, my mission to play again began to be less about soccer and more about me.
I realized that I would be okay if I didn’t play another college game. Instead, I started to believe that my recovery battle was revealing my character. I thought that if I didn’t make it back on the field for the first game in the fall, it would say something negative about my work ethic or devotion to the team. I began thinking that not returning to play would define my personality. One of the biggest parts of my identity was that I was a hard worker. Although working hard is important, I grew to think that anything other than my utmost devotion to my sport and my team was sinful. I avoided rest and days off. I feared that my inability to play and my waning desire to play because of the difficult recovery process pointed to my lack of devotion and character.
Years ago, I read a story about a coach who was angry with a player for not wanting to play. This coach was telling his friend about his frustrations and lack of understanding as to why and how a player could lack such a desire when the player had so much potential.
His friend gently reminded him that it is not sinful to not want to play a sport.
Sometimes things go wrong and sometimes our desires change.
In this past year, I have learned a lot about grace. I have learned that my finiteness and my helpless dependence on God for everything, including my athletic abilities and desires, is not weakness. There is beauty found there. However, I do not want people to get the idea that I have learned that to be finite means that there is no point in working and trying. To be finite does not mean that I am infinitely small. It simply means that I have limits. It does not mean that I stop working or trying. I simply must realize that there are things out of my control. I do not have the power to do everything. And, I am beginning to realize, I do not really want that power; I have no business having that power.
Looking forward to the spring, I do not know if I will play in a single game.
I do not know if my hard work will pay off.
There are some days where I feel amazing and some days where I struggle with going up and down stairs. Yet, I am starting to see things differently. I am realizing that whether I get my knee back the way I want or not, God is gracious. While I am not worried about the game itself, I still struggle with thinking that failing to be cleared to play might reflect negatively on my character. Therefore, I am sure that the hard lessons are still coming my way. Yet, I know that no matter what, God is gracious and good and a whole lot bigger than me. My story isn’t unique.
There are countless others out there who have experienced injuries, disappointment, and loss.
There were many girls on the soccer team who experienced injuries this year.
There are countless individuals around the world who have experienced loss due to a world-wide pandemic.
Sometimes, you work as hard as you can and you don’t get the job, you don’t pass the class, you don’t land the audition, or you don’t get back on that field. Sometimes, you know you should be able to sprint, but you are still walking with pain. Sometimes we must wait, and sometimes, it never comes in the way that we want.
While I am definitely still worried about being able to get my knee back, I am hoping and praying that these lessons begin to sink in a little more; I hope that I learn better how to live into and embrace my limits.
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)