Counting down the minutes, I triple-checked my WiFi connection, credit card out and ready to go. The tickets were about to go on sale. My hands were shaking and heart pumping with extreme excitement. I refreshed my browser, and the adrenaline rushed through my hands. Fourth row seats! I texted my sister, a lover of Carli Lloyd, and she could hardly contain her emotions. Seeing a U.S. Women’s soccer game is on my “Ultimate To Do List” (since I refuse to call it a bucket list), and I matched her enthusiasm.
Driving up to attend the game at the new U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, I wanted to skip down the sidewalk. My father, sister Kenzie, and I walked into the new building, impressed with the space and layout of the new stadium. We went straight for our seats and spent the next few hours in awe of our favorite players and their flawless touches on the ball. Time moved slowly, and I just took it all in. The game started, just like I’ve seen on TV countless times. The referee grabbed the game ball, the teams walked out with young aspiring soccer players, and both teams’ national anthems played. The match began swiftly, and I was wide eyed, glued to the game. The U.S. team scored the first point of the match, but Switzerland answered too quickly for comfort.
Before I knew it, half time had arrived. During the break in the action, I thought back to my own journey through this game I love.
It was my dream to play college soccer, but during my junior year of high school I was devastated by an ACL injury. I thought my life was ending and I would never play again. Those were dark times for me, coming home to cry myself to sleep every night. I felt lost. I was a soccer player, and I didn’t know what this meant for my future plans. It was a grueling six months. Just a few years later, my sister tore her ACL, and then a year and a day later, tore her other one. After growing up fighting (mostly over the bathroom), this gave us a unique, although undesired, opportunity to bond. She swears she was tougher than me, but I claim first child syndrome. I was the test run. By the time Kenzie was bed-laden, my mother was a pro at bringing ice and rubbing feet.
It was in this time that I got to encourage my sister, and later on, many friends who have been attacked by the ACL epidemic. It’s becoming increasingly common among athletes who participate in contact sports. I’ve been known to make ACL care packages, full of chapstick (the drugs make your kissers dry), Vitamin E oil (for a healthy, healing scar), and movies.
The story goes on, and I played a terrible senior year, hesitant and sad. I gave up my dream to play in college my freshman year. Little did I know, I would end up transferring to a different school and starting as a forward, scoring a last-minute goal to throw us into overtime (at our first home game). Boy, does life ebb and flow!
Back at the stadium, I watched with wonder as the U.S. Women’s team scored another four goals to secure the win. The second half we were scoring on our side of the field, and our fourth row seats ended up providing a perfect view! We stayed until Carli Lloyd walked into the locker room, soaking up her presence as long as we could.
Driving home, the car was silent as I pondered all these moments. Finding purpose for my pain has helped me to strive for a civil relationship with my nasty scar. Kenzie, on the other hand, wears hers like a warrior. I hide in leggings and tights, but I don’t mind telling the story. I got through it, learning my identity wasn’t solely found in being a soccer player. Instead, I was a child of God who happened to play soccer, happened to score goals, and happened to tear my ACL. First and foremost, I was beginning to find who I was in Christ. The freedom of that identity is beyond words. Friends, I hope you can look past the circumstances in your life, current or past, and plant yourself on the strong foundation of Jesus Christ. He is our righteousness.