This week the Earchphoto Blog is honored to host a guest blog by midfielder Brittany Bock of the Houston Dash NWSL soccer team. Brittany is ready to make her comeback after a year long recovery post ACL surgery, and wishes to share her journey and how Faith can help all of us overcome the setbacks and hard times in life.
They say when you go through a traumatic event in your life, your senses are sharpened, you remember the scents, the sound all around you, and you take snapshots and can remember what you were wearing. Well easy for me to remember the Dash jersey I was wearing ;) haha… but I remember exactly what was going through my mind, my body and my heart the moment I tore my ACL.
My Saturday started out pretty typical for game day. I enjoyed a good breakfast and then made sure my garage apartment was cleaned up before I picked my parents up at the airport! I have to say, I am one lucky girl; my parents have been traveling all over the country, and even the world (Russia for my U20 World Cup!) to watch me play soccer! But this time it was extra special because the day before, April 11th, was my 27th birthday, and it was a fresh new start with the Houston Dash! After opening my birthday gifts (including Toews Blackhawks jerseyJ), I rested up and got into game mode.
After a good sweat in warm-ups, we headed back to the locker-room for last minute prep and change into our jerseys. I took a moment to pause, take a deep breath, and open my Bible for a few pieces of scripture. I was ready. Walking out onto the pitch at BBVA Compass Stadium gave me chills. It has been a journey to get here on the professional stage, and holding the little girls’ hands as we walked onto the field only reminded me how blessed I am to be standing in the shoes of women I used to (and still do) look up to.
The whistle blew for the first minute of the inaugural season for the Houston Dash and the first minute of the 2014 NWSL season. My adrenaline was pumping, sweat dripped down my face, and a crowd of cheering fans was decked out in orange in the stands. Just over a minute later, something felt weird in my knee. The noise of the crowd became a hollow cheer. Time almost stopped…
“Did that really just happen, could it be that I just did what I thought I did?“… My season flashed before me … “Stop thinking about that, you’re fine, just walk it off”… then my knee buckled when I tried to jog… “Maybe I just hyper-extended it”… I didn’t feel much pain though, so I told myself it must be nothing—to keep pushing. But I knew something just wasn’t quite right, I had a feeling of what it could be…
This battle went on in my head which felt like forever as I started to head to the bench to talk to my trainer. Suddenly I realized the game was still going on and Portland was on the attack. They streaked through the midfield as I watched them run by. Haha oops, I was in my own little world. I’m pretty sure Jordan Jackson was wondering what the heck I was doing, hahaha:/! Shortly after I came off the field and my knee passed the ACL test several times. We taped me up to protect the hyper-extension feeling I was describing—and Coach asked me if I could go or if he needed to sub me. I did a few runs down the sideline to test it and then stepped back out on the pitch.
I went up for headers, tackled, blocked shots, but each time my knee gave out on me. I literally gave everything I had, “maybe I can just run it off”, yet each time it was tested, I couldn’t do it. Becky Edwards and Nikki Washington kept checking in on me, and I responded, “I don’t know what to do, it just keeps giving out”. Finally, I just couldn’t do it anymore. I pulled myself out in frustration and embarrassment. I was hurting the team more than helping. Talk about a humbling experience.
After halftime, walking back down the tunnel from the locker-room, I saw my Dad leaning over the stands. I reached up to him for a hug. He didn’t say anything, but he gave me so much comfort. I didn’t bring up the thought of my season being over. But I knew it… and I think he did too. I told him “I tried so hard to run it off Dad, I just couldn’t do it anymore. I didn’t know what else to do. I tried so hard”. He just hugged me and said “I know honey, I know”. I kept going… “Dad I feel so embarrassed, nothing even happened on the play!” and he just rubbed my back and hugged my head and said, “Shhh, there is nothing to be embarrassed about”. That is a moment I will never forget.
The next day I had to move slowly. My parents and I went to Church for Palm Sunday and then we met up at House of Pies with my agent. Mmmmm, talk about yummy pies, hehe. When I sat down in the restaurant I realized how stiff and swollen my knee was getting, but I didn’t let myself break down. I spent the day with my parents before I dropped them off at the airport. Never once did any of us mention the possibility of a torn ACL, but I think we all knew.
When I got back to my apartment, I awkwardly climbed into bed, and just laid there for a minute. I had my parents, my friends, my teammates/coaches/fans there to support me and keep me smiling, but I still had the worry/uncertainty/emptiness that sat in a pit in my stomach. I then leaned over, grabbed my Bible and devotional, and started reading.
The devotional I was reading at the time, In Touch With God, gave each month had a theme, and April’s was “Blessing from Pain”. I started to read through starting on April 11th, and for the first time, the tears came. My vision was blurred with the pain, but at the same time it was a cleansing experience. With every injury in my career’s journey, my frustration filled me to bursting. I’d push through, but it was a struggle. This time, reading those reflections, I experience something new: peace.
I will never forget this moment I finally understood how pain can empower us.
This is what I learned that day.
Lesson 1: Be a Witness
“It is the way that you behave during your suffering that shows other people that you have a secret source of strength available to you; an inner joy that does not depend on your physical circumstances; a peace that can only come from God.”
Why do bad things happen to good people? I think we’ve all questioned this—I know I have—and it can shake us to the core. The possibility for that inner joy gave me peace with my ACL injury because I knew I didn’t have to endure the pain alone. After my last wrist surgery, I knew I couldn’t do it again—I couldn’t go through another injury. Now I understand why—I was trying to come back from every injury with something to prove, “I am strong enough, I am tough enough, I will get back and be better than ever”. That’s exhausting and unsustainable. It’s painful to see articles written about me with the notion of “if she can stay healthy”. It hurt my pride more than anything, and that kept joy out of my life.
God won’t shelter us from going through tough times; we need those experiences to be better people. Instead, He promises to comfort us and give us strength—if we set aside our egos and accept those gifts.
So last April, was I struggling? Yes. Did I have the strength myself to get through yet another surgery on my own? I don’t think so. This time I would have to fully give into God—His strength is much greater than mine. And I’ve learned that, when I stop focusing on pushing myself through my physical trials, and give it over to God, He will get me through it. My walk in my faith has encouraged me; it was His strength not mine, that would get me through this.
Lesson 2: Trust—in Faith and Friends—is foundational
“Trials strengthen your faith and build your character. God promises that if you are willing to trust in Him in the midst of your trials, He will rescue you from them”.
An injury can make you feel forgotten and alone. It wears you down physically, mentally and emotionally. Studying my devotional from those days, I learned the more I surrender my pride, the more I am free from worry and pain. I still get frustrated and cry out on days when feel like I am hitting a wall, but I can truly say I know it will be okay because I have my trust in the Lord.
As I read through the April 12th devotional (game day), it reminded me God Cannot Disappoint You! Overcoming obstacles and rough times is not easy on your own. I smiled as I read the Romans 5:3-5, the same verse I read on game day! I felt so much peace because I could feel God’s presence in this moment. “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us”.
I have always tried to get by on my own—resisting help until I literally had no energy left. What comfort and love I receive now when I accept His help—the help of others—more humbly. Even when things don’t go the way I wanted, God puts the most amazing people in my path just when I need it the most!
“When God is all that you have, you discover that He is all that you need”. With this attitude, I can allow the sufferings I have gone through to strengthen my faith—and in doing so making me a stronger person.
Lesson 3: It Isn’t Up to Me
“We Plan and God Laughs. Sometimes He Makes You Wait”
It’s human nature to want to feel happy now. We want everything right now, but that is not how life works. God’s timeline is much different than ours. He knows our heart, He knows our desires, He knows what is best for us, and He knows how He wants to use you to help His Kingdom.
For too many years I have questioned the events of my life, wondering why things didn’t work out way I want them to. Boy was that exhausting! I still have my moments, but the more I put my hope and trust in the Lord, the more at peace I am. Learning to let go and let God has made me a better, more compassionate person.
Those four days I read of the devotional gave me the peace that I needed in a very difficult period in my life.
If you have gotten this far, I want to thank you for taking the time to read this. I am beyond blessed to have been surrounded by so many amazing people giving me the love and support I needed at the perfect time. Some of you may never know the impact you have had on my life, but I know I am thankful for you.
We may never realize how much our words and actions towards others can affect them. Be kind, be generous, be forgiving, and most of all, be a witness of God’s love so others can experience its joy!