Sports injuries are never expected.
That’s why they are so troubling and disappointing. Although the immediate pain of an injury can be excruciating, it is the subsequent change in lifestyle that is most difficult. Anyone who has had to take a break from playing because of an injury knows that reality.
On November 30, 2015, while playing indoor soccer, I ruptured my achilles tendon. With only two minutes left in the game, while running towards the ball, I felt as though a player from the opposing team kicked me with all their strength on the back of my right leg on my achilles. I immediately fell on my back and felt the intense heat. I pleaded with the ref to call a foul, thinking someone had taken a cheap shot. However, he repeated several times that no one was around me and he heard a “pop”. I knew something was seriously wrong.
The next day I saw an orthopedic doctor that specializes in foot and ankle injuries. After a quick examination, he easily determined that I ruptured my achilles tendon, which means it snapped in two. Two days later, my doctor made a four inch incision in the back of my leg and sewed my achilles tendon back together.
This was not in my plans. I expected to play the whole season with my buddies. I assumed I could play soccer with my two boys around the house anytime we felt like it. I thought I could dance with my two girls whenever we wanted. I planned to drive to work the next day and the day after that and the day after that. I expected to walk on my own two feet to get ready for work. But none of this was to be.
I was dramatically reminded, “You do not know what your life will be like tomorrow,” (James 4:14).
Sports injuries are never expected.
Then the challenging part began…recovery. Recovery is just another name for “get used to a whole new life.” My new life meant asking people to drive me places. It meant hobbling up the stairs on my knees. It meant no longer being able to carry a cup of water to the dinner table. It meant sleeping with with a two pound hard plastic boot each and every night. It meant asking my wife and kids to help me put a sock on. The real challenge to the injury was the new lifestyle.
On one occasion I asked one of my sons how it made him feel now that I can’t play soccer with him anymore. Sitting in the same chair with me, he answered, “Sad. I miss playing with you.” I told him the same thing. Then we just hugged each other and wept together over the loss.
However, despite all the loss and 10-12 month recovery something else significant has happened. I’ve grown in gratitude.
The Bible says, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy,” (James 1:2).
The ruptured achilles has given me this opportunity for joy and gratitude. I’m thankful that my wife, so willingly, does the lion share of chores because I’m limited. I’m thankful that my kids happily hold doors open for me. I’m thankful that my friends will offer to take me to work. I’m thankful that I can take steps in my orthopedic boot. I’m thankful that I can shower unassisted.
Now I watch my boys play soccer with more delight than I use to. I’m even more happy for them that they can play. I’m happy to watch my girls dance around the living room, jumping and twisting. I won’t have the strength to be on my tip toes for quite some time, but they can do it now. It makes me happy that they are enjoying themselves. Although I can’t dance, I can watch and that has increased my appreciation for them and their abilities.
An acute sports injury is just the beginning of a new lifestyle. Lord willing, it’s a temporary season, but it’s a season of difficultly and dramatic change, nonetheless. Yet the potential for increased gratitude during that season is present.
So what’s your “injury”? What’s your current “inability” that came as a surprise? Has it slowed you down enough so that gratitude can increase? It sure can.
“We can rejoice when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment, ” (Romans 5:3-5).