With soccer season in full swing, Ben stayed in denial. The pain would surely go away if he just walked it off or maybe if he iced it or maybe if he stretched it some more. He didn’t even mention it to me or his dad for several weeks as it grew worse and worse. His play on the field led his team to an almost perfect record. He never left the field, often playing the whole game and usually scoring at least one goal and assisting on others. So, after the most recent victory when he should have been all smiles and energy, tears gently joined the sweat on his jersey.
“What is it Ben?”
“It just hurts so bad. I thought it would get better. I thought I could work through it, but it hurt to even walk.”
“How long has this been going on?”
“A couple of weeks,” he replied.
“I think we need to check into it then,” I said as we slowly walked to the car. He was limping now with each step. Everyone who passed asked if he was okay. The coach expressed his concern about his star player. I said I’d keep him in the loop.
A painful silence rode home with us. Ben cried and I prayed. I didn’t know what was wrong with Ben’s heel, but I prayed for the doctor we would see and the diagnosis we would receive. And I prayed for Ben, for his heart and attitude. And I prayed for healing.
Soccer games are usually on Saturday for us, so Ben didn’t do much that weekend. Finally I secured an appointment for Monday afternoon. The doctor embodied experience and wisdom. The date on his diploma reflected maturity. Ben liked him immediately. Gentleness and kindness exuded as he spoke with Ben about his injury and his pain. He listened to Ben tell about how the pain had increased and how he had though it would go away.
After some x-rays the doctor returned. He said that Ben had calcaneal apophysitis or Sever’s Disease. It is actually quite common in young athletes because of the repetitive stress and sometimes trauma they put on their feet. So, Ben’s pain had a name. But then the doctor told Ben what it would take for him to heal: 10-14 days of no activity. No running. No jumping. No track. No soccer. Ben’s interpretation: no fun.
The doctor spoke firmly, telling Ben that he had to rest to heal his heel. He said that Ben needed to take care of his body and that failing to do so could result not only in more pain, but more severe damage to his foot. Ben was fit for custom heel supports to put inside his shoes. These he would wear in all of his shoes until he outgrew them. The doctor’s words began to discourage Ben. Frustration and even anger began to grow in his heart.
Again a painful silence hovered in the car as we drove home. Tears fell on Ben’s t-shirt as he stared out of the window. And again I prayed. Finally Ben said, “Why did this have to happen? This means that I can’t play the game on Saturday.”
I had already thought through all of the implications of his injury. These next 10-14 days had the potential to be long and hard. I didn’t rush to answer his question, but let it hang in the air. As it did so, a list of my own hurts and pains rushed through my head. Loneliness and betrayal, misunderstandings and lies—none of it physical, but all of it painful. My own wounds had sidelined me too. Why did that have to happen?
We both wrestled with the same question as we drew nearer and nearer home.
He is faithful
God is always in the process of doing two things: glorifying Himself and growing us. This I know to be true. My issues, my pains I have wrestled through many times. I have called out to Him begging for the pain to stop, pleading with Him to heal and restore. And although I know He is able, eliminating the hurt isn’t always what’s best. He often uses the hurts and pains and losses to draw me nearer to Himself, to teach me, to grow me, to prove Himself faithful.
Now, with both of our faces wet with tears, I began, “Well Ben, this I know. God doesn’t waste anything. I’m so sorry about this. The doctor said that there is probably nothing we could have done to prevent it. So here we are with at least 10 days stretched out before us. I know that it’s hard and frustrating to consider all that you can’t do, but what if instead you focus on all that God might do? I don’t mean that it will be easy, but I’m betting God wants to show you something amazing.”
My words were met with more tears and, “Oh, mom!” My heart was breaking for him. Ben just wanted to run and jump. He just wanted to go to practice and play his game on Saturday. Ben didn’t want to be still for 10-14 days. At 12, he knew God and His love, but this was a level of intimacy with which he was unfamiliar. He moped into the house and I followed, praying.
With each day, Ben grew grumpier and grumpier. The tension in the house built to a crescendo one morning at breakfast. Frustration erupted onto an innocent sibling. I had seen it coming and I understood it too well. I had done that too. I took him aside into another room. Tears again. Not angry, not furious. Broken. His tears were familiar to me too. Those same tears had run down my cheeks many times. Tears of hard fought surrender. He yielded and we hugged. He saw clearly what his unchecked anger had done to his brother and he sincerely apologized.
“So Ben, how can I help you? There are still at least seven more days. What can I do to help you trust God with this?”
“I don’t know. It’s really hard.”
“Yes it is. It’s hard to watch. That’s why it’s so important to remember what we know, that God loves you and that He doesn’t waste anything.” And even as I spoke these words to him they washed over the tender places in my heart, bringing comfort and peace.
As the days wore on, Ben’s attitude improved. He relaxed and even accepted his restrictions. We went to his soccer game to cheer on his team. His presence surprised them and they won their game. Now we marched toward the follow up appointment peacefully. The doctor commended Ben with his progress. Although he would be required to continue wearing the heel supports consistently, the doctor released Ben to resume his regular physical activities. He could run and jump again. And he could join his team to play their next game.
On our ride home Ben’s anticipation filled the car. He could hardly wait for practice and the game. We agreed he had never looked forward to running and jumping like this before. In fact, he realized that there were activities he’d taken for granted. Not any more. The week finished with yet another soccer game victory and smiles all around.
That Saturday night as I prepared for bed, Ben knocked on my door and asked to come in. “Of course,” I said.
“Mom,” he began, “I wanted to tell you what God showed me through this whole thing.” I paused folding towels. In my own relief of his healing, I’d forgotten to ask what God had shown him, what he’d learned.
I turned around and looked at his bright blue eyes as he said, “Mom, God taught me that I can trust Him. He really does care for me.” Joyful, thankful tears now wet his hair as we hugged in celebration of His goodness. Ben felt so personally touched. We had grown in faith together and God was glorified.
What hurts or wounds or pains is God allowing because of His love for you? In what areas are you holding on to the hurt instead of leaning into His faithfulness and love? Surrender to His faithfulness. Worship His Goodness. Trust His will. Have faith. He knows. He cares. And He loves you.