Getting to run and compete in college was a dream come true. I had big ambitions at Grace College and beyond. My mind dreamed of National Championships and then the Summer Olympics and a professional running career. My running for God began to turn back to running for myself. I wanted to accomplish personal feats for personal glory. In fact, it was easy to neglect the spiritual and emotional growth that God wanted in me as I was putting most of my attention and energy towards my running career.
God would quickly get my attention and put me back on course. During the winter I was playing a pick up game of basketball with some students when my right leg locked up. I couldn’t bend it. Strange! Why can’t I bend my leg? I knew something major wasn’t right and I ended up at an orthopedic sports surgeon’s office. After X-rays I was given the bad news. I had a big piece of cartilage that had fallen off the top of my knee and was freely moving around. In fact, my leg had locked up because the loose cartilage had lodged itself behind my knee. Surgery was needed but the bad news didn’t stop there. The doctor looked at me and said my career was over. He recommended I stop competing because my leg injury was one of the worst he had seen in his lengthy tenure as a surgeon. I was told I’d never win races again anyways. A total knee replacement was going to be needed eventually.
My heart sunk. Stunned I left the office speechless. I didn’t know what to think or how to tell this to my coach, teammates, and my family. My mom flew me home to get a second opinion from a local doctor and surgeon. He gave the same diagnosis but was a little bit more encouraging in saying that I could finish my career at Grace College but that I had to really be careful and to not expect much success from a injury as catastrophic as this.
I kept going through my memories, where and when did this injury occur? How long have I had a bad knee? Then it hit me. A major soccer injury during the spring of my freshman year of high school. It had sidelined me from running for a couple of weeks. A goalie made a slide tackle directly into my knee while I was running towards him at full speed. The impact was so hard that I did a a complete front flip in the air. My leg around the knee was immediately black and blue and swollen within seconds. I could hardly walk for days. Back then I didn’t think to go get X-Rays. I iced and rested my leg. My track coach even sent me to the chiropractor to receive treatments. Somehow I got back to running and still made it to the State meet that year and finished my entire high school career without much pain or issues from that knee.
Yet, here I was in my freshman year of college now dealing with an injury that had happened years before. I cried. Oh, I cried a lot. I watched my teammates during track practice and broke down. My dreams and ambitions for a great running career seemed over. The Olympic dream was over. God spoke a lot to me in the following weeks. He helped me see that my true reason for being at Grace College and for living goes back to the promise I made on the mountain in Colorado. I was alive to live and serve the Lord. In other words, my race and running was for God and not for myself. The race devoted to personal glory must die but a race devoted to bringing God the glory must come alive. Here I was thinking, but I am “running for One”. I came to college to “run for One” but God humbled me and showed me that so much of my running and life was still for me and not for Him. I had a lot to learn from God about myself. I needed to fully give God my life and running and this began the process that God began to make major changes in me.
The summer going into my sophomore year of college began with surgery to fish out the cartilage and to clean up the area around my knee. This surgery would just buy me some time before a total knee replacement would be necessary. I spent 10 weeks off of my leg. It seemed like forever! I wanted to run and begin the rehab process. Back then there wasn’t an immediate rehab process for some reason and I lost a lot of muscle in my right leg. My right calf muscle was noticeably smaller than my left by the time I began walking and jogging again. Yet, with my priorities back in line, God allowed me to get back into shape in a miraculous amount of time. In fact, I never missed many National Championship opportunities including the ones my freshman and sophomore years when I was dealing with my knee. I was able to run at National events every year of college.
3 National Championships! Yes, something that the doctors said was impossible. I give all the credit and glory to God. I never would have had the strength and speed to compete at such a high level on the knee that I had if it wasn’t for the Lord. Every run and every race left me thankful for the gift that God would allow me to run another day. My passion to pursue God grew because of what He was doing in my running. God was showing me His miraculous ability to do great things through me if I trusted Him and devoted my life to Him. I knew that my life’s greatest goal wasn’t to run in the Olympics. That would be an incredible accomplishment but a temporal one. The Olympics and a professional running career wasn’t my calling that God had for me. God wanted greatness out of me that was of eternal value. He began to give me a love for not only running but even more so a desire to make disciples. So here I am today. A pastor who loves God, loves people, and loves to run!