Three little letters strike fear into the heart of every athlete, especially a soccer player. Your anterior cruciate ligament or ACL is one ligament in your body you do not want to tear. Trust me, because I have torn mine. On July 16, 2003, my world as I knew it came to screeching halt as the pop of my ACL tearing off my bone in my knee reverberated across the bustling soccer field I had been playing on. As I sat on the field watching my once normal-sized knee swell to the size of a regulation softball, I had to face the music. With an ACL tear it takes six months to get back to normal. In my initial state of anger and frustration I concluded that that was just long enough to ruin my life and, more importantly, my senior year in high school. I would miss out on my senior cross-country season and playing my last season of club soccer. Needless to say I was not very thrilled with my prospects.
The actual tearing of my ACL proved to be the least painful part of the long journey that was still ahead of me. I never truly realized how much I appreciated my knee until I no longer had full use of it, and that’s how sometimes I am with God. It is so easy to “forget” about Him when things in our lives are going well, but the first sign of trouble always serves as a flagrant reminder of how I need to remember that He is there with me, through good times and bad.
My own ACL recovery went quite well after the initial shock of rehab wore off. I went from being in the best shape of my life, playing soccer and easily going on eight miles runs, to being reduced to crutches and a hip to ankle knee brace. It is embarrassing to admit I spent the some of my first physical therapy sessions sobbing in self-pity as I worked so hard just to be able to bend my once agile knee.
However just like most things in life, my ACL journey is an experience that I would not trade for anything because of the lessons I learned throughout my recovery—especially remembering to be thankful for what you have in seasons of prosperity and in seasons of despair.
Three years later, I look back on those six months following my surgery with a certain reverence, for my spiritual life can be likened to the tearing of my ACL. Sin can turn our fluid walk with Christ into an ungainly gait, similar to that of someone who has just undergone knee surgery. Like how a quick attitude adjustment helped me overcome my initial self-pity, a quick attitude adjustment also helps me in my faith, reminding me to keep my eyes focused on Him and not the distractions that encumber our daily lives. In addition, after having surgery my once unstable knee is now better than before, and that is exactly what happens to our hearts each time we submit ourselves to our heavenly Father. He is able to mend our hearts to be much stronger than they were before.
Finally, albeit because of my clumsiness or human nature, there are still times I fall way short in my faith, but luckily I know God is always with me. With my restored knee, I am currently in the process of training for my first marathon, and I look at my spiritual life in the same way—as a marathon, not just a quick sprint. I rely on my renewed heart, given to me by the mercy of Him, in the same way I depend on my new knee because I know He is in it with me for the long haul.