Having made it all the way to age 15 without breaking a bone or suffering a major injury, I thought in a way that my body was invincible. I got bruised or scraped, but I always got back up. So, my attitude was pretty confident as I was enjoying a crisp winter day in the Colorado mountains over Christmas break, sledding and catching the softly falling snowflakes on my tongue. I had taken several trips down the sledding slope with my friends when I decided I wanted more of a challenge.
We lined our sleds up for a race- first person to round the bend at the bottom and make it the farthest on their sled was the champion! We ran and jumped onto the trusty plastic boards, laughing but just competitive enough to take it seriously. The mood changed from carefree to chaotic in the span of 30 seconds when my sled suddenly veered to the side of the hill, hit some frozen hay bales feet-first, and launched me over a small tree. When I landed in one of the large snow drifts, the first thing I noticed was a sharp pain shooting up and down my right leg. My friends then rushed over, laughing at the sight of me sprawled out in the snow. Hoping the pain would wear off, I tried to stagger out of the snow. I didn’t want to ruin the fun for everyone, so when I realized I couldn’t put any weight on my foot, I crawled my way up the hill and miserably watched my friends spend the rest of the day playing in the snow.
The throbbing in my foot continued, but my mind caused most of the pain. At that time, I was at the beginning of my freshman varsity basketball season and so excited about my new opportunities. I was starting and playing a lot, and everything was going well. But with every fresh wave of pain shooting up my leg, I worried more and more that I would lose my ability to play basketball, the thing that I had put so much of my identity in.
Losing basketball meant losing my identity, losing my identity meant anonymity, and anonymity was basically synonymous with worthlessness. I valued myself based on what my legs could do for me, and when they could no longer perform, I could not maintain the image I had worked so hard to achieve.
As I sat on the hill watching my friends frolic and have snowball fights, I fought back tears of pain and frustration. I prayed over and over again that God would miraculously heal my foot, because even though at that point I didn’t know what was wrong, I knew that it was at least somewhat serious.
I continued to pray and try not to cry that night as I sat in the emergency room with my family. The doctor finally walked into my room with the X-ray results and I held my breath. She said, “I have good news and bad news”. My hopes skyrocketed- obviously if there was good news then it must not be broken! I would be able to play after all! I waited expectantly as she continued. “The good news is that hay bales are stronger than we think. The bad news is that your foot is broken.” Unbelievable. I could no longer hold back the tears, I felt like a person who couldn’t swim and had been thrown in a lake with no life vest. I watched the thing that I had put so much of my time, energy, and life into slip right through my fingers.
There was something so helpless about that feeling that slowly made me realize that even when the situation was out of my hands, God was completely in control. Though I was one of almost 21,000 kids who get injured each year sledding, that didn’t make my situation feel any less serious to me. I grew so weary of walking to the gym on crutches every day only to sit on the sidelines and watch my teammates run and have fun together. There were still days that I asked God why He had taken my passion away from me. But gradually He showed me that my love for the game wasn’t just a passion, it was an idol.
My worth can’t be contingent on my performance in a sport, in the classroom, or in relationships because those are things that can always change. When my worth is in Christ, I cannot be shaken. God showed me that I am more than an athlete, I am His beloved daughter, whether I play basketball or not. He opened my eyes to the blessing I now have to even be able to run up and down and court, even when I’m tired or not performing well. Through the tears and the frustration, God slowly began revealing more of Himself to me. What
was my biggest nightmare turned into one of my biggest times of personal growth. And even though I haven’t been sledding again to this day, I wouldn’t go back and move that hay bale for the world.
Photo courtesy: Gazette.com