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The alarm rang at 5:15am again today, just as it has three to four days per week for the past four years. But today’s alarm was just a little bit different. Today was the final time that one of us makes our way downstairs to be sure our son, Alex, is out of bed and getting ready to head for his morning workout before school.
It’s a minor investment that we have made (some may call it over-functioning) in our son who has dreamed dreams of playing ball beyond his high school experience since he was a little guy.
Game day. Snow day. Work day.
The same routine, day in and day out, driven by the understanding that God had given him gifts, skills, talents, and passions and he wants to faithfully use those gifts and has devoted time to putting his body to the task.
The Apostle Paul writes: “Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-25)
The reality of an imperishable wreath is not lost on our son, a faithful follower of Jesus; and he still has dreams for this life, so he keeps putting in the work, “running the race in such a way that he might win it.”
It was a beautiful Friday evening, September 4, 2020. Alex and his teammates were warming up for the first home football game of the year against a neighboring rival when I noticed one of his friends, a junior on the team, hobbling to the sidelines in a boot. I asked his parents what had happened, why their boy was in a boot, and I expressed my disappointment for both them and their son.
And then I settled into my bleacher seat alongside my spouse, Kathy, to cheer on Alex and the boys. As I sat there, I remember thinking to myself, “I am going to have to begin preparing myself for the end of this year.” We love watching all of our kids do the things they do, no matter what they do or the amount of success they have. And there is something about your only son doing all the things you once did, if that makes any sense to you.
Early in the second quarter of this game – the second game of the season he had prepared his entire life for — Alex caught a pass and headed up field. One of the opponents made a good play, eluded two blockers, and spun our son to the ground. Alex had put his foot in the ground to spin away from the defender, but he couldn’t elude the tackle. He got up – because he always gets up – for just a second, and then went down in a heap in the middle of the field.
I’m not sure I said, “Oh, sh#@!” audibly, but I said it internally. Kathy’s friend hugged her, we held each other’s hand, and quietly looked on from the bleachers until they sent for the ambulance crew.
He was eventually carted off the field (not before the opposing coach prayed with him), taken to the hospital for X-rays, and was back on the sidelines cheering his teammates on some 90 minutes later. He cheered them on all season long, and through most of the basketball season, too, not allowing himself to be a victim. He contributed to his teammates in the ways he could and was a blessing to them and his coaches.
Alex certainly experienced some physical pain, but the emotional toll was far more painful. We shared some dark nights together, and he cried himself to sleep on more than one occasion, but the work he did in those moments with God was character building.
I wasn’t ready for this – none of us were ready for this we said as all of this was unfolding – and yet we had been prepared for this moment in ways we hadn’t previously considered.
And in the moment, the disappointment and the grief of not getting to run this race with his teammates was pretty overwhelming for him and for us…
Isn’t that true for each one of us? I mean, when things don’t go how we want them to go, if we stop, collect ourselves, and take a breath, perspective often changes everything. We have been through enough in our lives together that Kathy and I knew that Alex would be okay.
But those early morning alarms never stopped going off, nor did the work cease in pursuit of the dream. He continued putting in the work, and 10-12 weeks later, rehab on the broken leg and ligament-torn ankle began in earnest, thanks to Chad.
We thank God for Chad!
Last week I wrote about midwifery, explaining that the midwife is “the opener of doors, the one who releases, the nurturer. S(he) is the strong anchor when there is fear and pain; the skilled friend who is in tune with the rhythms of birth.” I also explained that the midwife is also one who reminds the one giving birth that everything needed to birth the child is already at her disposal.
Chad is a Certified Athletic Trainer, a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, and DME Coordinator for the Orthopedic Institute in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Among all of his credentialing, Chad filled the role of midwife for Alex in his recovery. He was a strong anchor when there was fear and pain, a nurturer who always reminded Alex that he had what it would take within him to not only survive rehab but to thrive on the other side, and as he poked, prodded, and pushed Alex to keep moving, he was a gift in the process.
God also saw fit to place a group of parents in our lives who loved us well. We cheered on their sons on Friday nights and together, we cheered on Alex and his buddy toward healing. This week, some seven months after that second surgery, Alex is running full speed and it is so much fun to watch. We were overjoyed to watch the boys run well at the State Qualifying Track Meet last week and to get to compete in the State meet this weekend.
They didn’t win their races, but they ran in such a way that I believe they did win. And we can, too. I pray you don’t run alone, that you have a Chad in your life, and a community of saints to encourage you along the way.