I have been incredibly blessed my entire life to be pretty healthy. I have participated in many sports and never had injuries. I have never broken a bone or gone to the E.R. as a patient.
And then I turned 40. That’s right! It’s a game changer. My 4th grade daughter had an end-of-year soccer scrimmage with the moms of the team, and having played soccer in high school, I went all in. Until, that is…I went all out. Will carried me off the field. Something in my knee just snapped while kicking the ball. It was so surprising and painful! Turns out, I tore my ACL.
I have been wearing a knee brace to keep it steady. While an inconvenience, the experience has been just as surprising as the injury itself. In the halls of the school where I work, people see the brace from a distance and rush to ask what’s wrong. Then they almost always proceed to tell me a story about their own knee injury or their child’s injury or any injury they’ve overcome. These stories are amazing! What people have overcome is so inspiring. And none of them are still wearing a brace, which encourages me so much. They all share a deep gratitude for being on the other side of it, for running and walking, and for what I have perhaps always taken for granted.
The limp isn’t the only thing slowing me down. It’s connecting with people and hearing their stories. There are people I’ve known very well, but never knew this part of their life. The slower pace has felt less productive, but perhaps more fruitful.
This past weekend my husband and I were staying in a hotel, and I decided to take off the brace to walk out to the pool. It’s the first time I had been without it. The strange thing about an ACL tear is that it is an invisible, internal injury. The ACL is what holds the knee together. So at any time, one misstep could blow the entire knee. But strangely, the knee looks perfectly normal on the outside with no swelling or bruising. I made my way to the glass pool door…please let that kid hold it open…and it slammed in my face. I walked over to the towel rack…please let that man just hand it to me...and he quickly turned to walk away. Without the brace, no one knows my struggle. They see me as okay and healthy. But that’s not the reality right now. I am, as my doctor said, “very unsteady.”
And this has made me wonder how many people around us are one step away from things blowing up. How many have an invisible hurt and need a simple helping hand from those around them to walk through the doors that are right in front of them?
I’ve been that person, and I’m eternally grateful for the people who wanted to know and love more than the healthy exterior, who lingered and pressed in, and who graciously walked my limping self to our Healer. I am thankful for the people who wore their hurts outwardly and shared their victory stories openly without even knowing they were ministering to me. Jesus says it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. Sometimes those who are the most sick look healthy. This experience has opened my eyes.
My word for 2021 that I prayed about back in January is “weakness.” I know that’s a strange word, but the prayer behind it was not to operate in my own strength (my default), but to let God’s power be made perfect in my weakness. In my sunroom is posted the scripture,
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. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
When I choose a word for the year, God is often faithful to see to it that I live it experientially. My knee injury has taught me some things that I wanted to share:
- When you wear your weakness, you receive the gift of surprising compassion, meet new friends and are invited into people’s stories.
- People’s injury stories are often the most interesting part about them. Press in and get to know them.
- The things we hope will never happen are often the things that teach us the most in life.
- Freely share your stories of victory and overcoming, never knowing who they may be encouraging. Someone is always in need of hearing them.
- Have compassion on everyone, regardless of exterior strength.
And, finally, as my wise co-worker in his 50’s said,
- When you get older, you need to move in one direction at a time.
While making me laugh, that is great wisdom on every level. I have changed direction from a soccer player to a soccer momma. Now, that is something to embrace!