Perhaps the peak of that was on Saturday, late morning. Hot sun even at this altitude, the dormant volcanic craters in the distance, monkeys scampering into trees as we walked up to the school's football field. Our boys were paying Strathmore in a friendly, a school of tall fast Kenyan boys. It was a good contest, drawing out some of the best play I've seen perhaps this season. While Scott roamed the sidelines taking pictures, I sat as usual with our friends the Battermans and Kendalls, whose kids are on the team with Jack, plus a few dorm dads who are fans. This is our fifth year watching our sons on teams together. We analyze and cheer, we gasp and hope. As I sat in the sun and breeze, watching our boys struggle a bit at first then pull ahead, I had that sense that I should remember this day and savor it. Senior Year. Our last senior year. Football, our favorite sport. A perfect morning on a spectacular field with good friends.
Then suddenly, one of the boys went down with a yell, "my knee!". Play stopped, and I sprinted down and arrived as the coach did. RK was lying on his side, having planted and cut in defending. No contact, no mistakes, nothing unusual, but he felt a pop and pain. And since the same thing happened to his sister in the final game of her senior year, he had a pretty good idea what was happening. "Not my senior year," he cried out. But a few seconds later, he raised his hand and said "God I praise you no matter what this is with my knee".
Well, it was his ACL. This kid is one of the best athletes and nicest all-around godly good guys in the school. A good friend. He, along with Jack and one other boy, was one of the three Juniors playing varsity in all sports last year. He would have been a star and probably a captain in basketball and an important force in rugby again this year. In other words, an ACL tear with surgery and months of rehab is no small thing in his life.
For me, it was a PTSD-moment that took me back to Caleb. I love this kid like a mom would, and my heart just broke for him. I confess I cried, in a very un-objective un-doctorly manner. Having watched Caleb say goodbye to some dreams, and struggle for almost two years to get back to health after his injury, I had some idea of the implications of that moment.
Later his sister wrote to him: God takes more pleasure in watching you play than even your mom and dad do. So if He let this happen, it must be for important reasons, because He loves you. RK's immediate response and this wisdom from his sister really are a testimony to faith. When our story takes a turn we don't expect, when we lose something important and dear, when joy seems impossible, that's when real faith shines. God loves the honest cry of the heart, "NO, please NO" and then the wrestling, grasping, tenacious hold on faith, "I trust you God." Which brings me back to Sunday School today. Joseph was the same age as all these boys when his brothers threw him in a pit and sold him into slavery. Then he was unjustly accused and thrown into prison. Yet decades later, he is able to look back on his own life story and all the pain and loss, and gain perspective by seeing God's fingerprints. In Genesis 50:21 he acknowledges that his brothers meant evil, "but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today."
We may not live to see the good that is wrested from evil in every aspect of our lives, but we live on the promise that all things are being redeemed. That God is at work for good, even in what is intended as evil. That busted knees which change life-path-directions do so in a way that will mean life to others, even if it takes years or decades to look back and see. I would gladly give Caleb my knee, as would RK's parents (well, our old knees may not be that useful, but you get the point). We hate to see our children injured. We hate to see doors close on them.
But then they lead us in faith, and respond with grace, and hold onto God, and we follow them down this hard road of living. We pray over them from Rom 8, and wait for the all-things-made-new of redemption in their lives and knees, and ours.