This is what a broken and dislocated forearm on a 9-year-old girls looks like. Unfortunately this belongs to my youngest daughter, Emme, who accomplished this after trying to catch herself from hitting the floor after falling off the balance beam at gymnastics. Accidents happen - and sometimes they really hurt! - but sometimes they affect more than just your physical well-being.
If you watch sports or have a child who plays sports or were an athlete yourself, then you know that injuries are often part of the game. Not everyone experiences bone-crushing fractures or career-ending injuries - most of the time it's knocks and bumps and the occasional bruise. But there are those moments where you watch an athlete's future dissipate before his or her eyes by an injury that prohibits them from coming back. And that is hard to watch.
As someone who has never really experienced any of this in the athletic arena, I've often wondered what it's like to receive the crushing news from a doctor or trainer that you might not be able to compete at the same level again. Even if you are just a weekend warrior and enjoy recreational sports leagues - which are awesome, by the way - I am sure that not being able to play at the same level as you once did can be frustrating if not even depressing.
So as I watched my budding young gymnast lie on the ground in obvious pain, my primary focus was making sure that she was okay and taken care of. But then as we were riding in the ambulance to the hospital, the inevitable thoughts came into my mind - Will she be able to do gymnastics again? And even if the physical healing is 100%, will she want to jump on that beam again after what happened? Will she even want to?
Sure, she's pretty new to the sport, but she is incredibly driven and has big dreams - she's already considering UCLA and Alabama for college because, according to her, "They have the best gymnastics teams." And she recently joined a team that will begin competition soon, which she has been working really hard to be ready for. How would she respond to the fact that even if she does make a full recovery it will still be months before she is able to even attempt the kind of moves she was doing before the accident? And what about us as parents - how will we help her through the potential disappointment of not being able to compete, both now and perhaps in the future?
It was right then and there, as these thoughts swirled through my brain, that I realized it would not matter to me one bit if my daughter ever wanted to slip on the leotard and get back to the gym. I am proud of her for trying her best and for being so brave to try a sport that I personally find pretty scary. And then she showed us more of what she is really made of.
After surgery and a brief time in recovery, she said she was ready to go home. Once there, she read out loud all of the get well cards that her classmates sent her and then she invited her friends over to hang out. She shared her Chick-Fil-A fries with them and hung out on the couch watching cheesy Disney shows with them, making sure that they were properly entertained and cared for. When she needed help from me or my wife, she was unafraid to ask for it. She also said she didn't want the pain medication that the doctor prescribed - she didn't like how it made her feel. And not once has she complained about being in pain or the fact that it could be months before she can go back in the gym again. The only disappointment she showed was not being able to go to school tomorrow.
I gotta be honest, it's times like these when I really look up to my kids and hope I can learn from them. As an adult, it's not a broken bone that concerns me but rather the potential for my dreams to be shattered. Yet here is a nine-year-old girl who is unafraid to take what life gives her and make it into something sweet.
Sometimes our dreams aren't the dreams that God has for us and sometimes we just need a little extra time before we can see our dreams fulfilled. But regardless of the circumstances, it is up to us to determine how we will handle life's ups and downs along the way. Jesus told us not to worry (Matthew 6:33) and Paul echoed that sentiment (Philippians 4:6). And they did so not because what we experience does not affect us or is unimportant but rather because God is greater than any difficulty or struggle we could ever encounter.
Dreams are great and we should keep on striving to live the dreams that God has placed in our hearts. Sometimes life will throw a wrench in our plans and derail these dreams, even if only temporarily. But if we keep our eyes on Jesus - "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness" - then we can know that regardless of the outcome that we desired, God will always give us exactly what we need - "and all of these things will be added unto you."