One Thing Remains

Photo by Mike McLaughlin

Photo by Mike McLaughlin


We are all familiar with the cliché saying “everything happens for a reason,” some of us more than others. It is often used to suppress feelings of disappointment, pain, and sometimes grief. The phrase is not something we want to hear, because it means something did not pan out or something went wrong. One of the hardest things to see as a follower of Christ is the plan God has in store for us. We often become so focused on our goals and aspirations that we may not see the bigger picture. As college students, particularly in the Ivy League, it seems that we are constantly searching for clarity. The next internship, the next class to take, the right steps to become successful—we are subjected to a constant pressure of figuring out our next move. We may think that we have it figured out, but then in a brief moment our plans and clarity can shatter.

The last two years of my time at Columbia have been everything but what I expected—which is something I’m sure many students can relate to. I came to Columbia from just outside of Austin, Texas to play football. The opportunity to attend Columbia presented itself halfway through my senior year of high school. I never pictured myself going to college in the hectic setting of Manhattan; I am passionate about the outdoors, and find comfort in the isolation of nature. My days of fly-fishing and hunting were replaced with long nights of seclusion in a small dorm room with views of the building across the street. Although it was hard, I stayed focused on why God had brought me to Columbia. The answer seemed obvious, to work hard and earn my degree, play four years of the game I love, experience living in New York City, and become a responsible young adult. It seemed like a simple plan that would work out, but I was so very wrong.

The past two years of football have brought their constant ups and downs. My freshman year our team did not win a game. This past season we made a great turn around, but I was placed at a challenging crossroads. I sustained two concussions during the season. The first one was very mild, and I was able to play shortly after, but the second one brought a whole new wave of problems. The concussion put me in a dark place. Symptoms of concussions can range from mood change to constant depression. During high school I had experienced some problems with concussions, so I knew my future as a football player was possibly in jeopardy. The list of worries and fears for my future as an athlete filled my mind. On top of this, it was required protocol for me to stay away from team activity and rest in an isolated area. But all I did was think.

My mind was in a fog pounding with pressure and pain. I questioned everything, and the sadness was something that I could not shake. Sitting down on the floor of my dorm room I asked God why. Why do I have to face this? I thought His plan for me was to play football. Why did He bring me to Columbia to take away one of the only things that remained constant in my life? The game of football is my first love, and something I have always been passionate about. So why was He putting me through this? Depression and worry consumed my mind. I was distraught, at my lowest of lows, and at this moment I realized that the only thing that would truly remain constant in my life was God. I immersed myself in scripture, I found words that soothed my desperate need for help, and I realized I could only find that in the Lord. That night I found this comfort in scripture and taped these words to my bedroom wall.

I cry aloud to the Lord, I lift my voice to the Lord for mercy. I pour out my complaint before him; before Him I tell my trouble. When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who knows my way.
I cry to you, O Lord; I say, “you are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” Listen to my cry for I am desperate in need; rescue me from those who pursue me for they are too strong for me. Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name. 1

During a time of isolation and pain, I was upset with God for what I was going through. But even in times of anger and suffering, God can work in ways that we cannot see. We can always be grateful for something, even when things are not going the way we plan, because God works in ways we cannot fathom. The senior pastor at my church back home in Austin wrote a book called “With a Palm and a Willow,” which tells his testimony. Pastor Rex Johnson is a man that is very dear to me, and he helped me through my time of recovering from my concussions. Only a couple of years after he first starting preaching, he lost his wife and only son in a car accident caused by a drunk driver in the middle of the day. Pastor Johnson locked himself in the church and poured his heart out to God. His only strong tower to lean on was his love for Christ when he had nothing else. He did not understand why, or how, it could happen to him after he devoted his life to the Lord. But in time he recovered and was convicted to spread the Gospel. Reading this I realized how God can shape us into who we are. Our plans and aspirations may be cut short, but that is God sending us in a different direction. I do not know if I will ever be able to play football again, but it will always be a game that I love and brought me to an incredible place. Now I have to find new purpose. We must always find peace with what we are dealt, and when things get rough and unbearable, we can lock ourselves in the church, cry out to the Lord, and find shelter in Him. We may not see it now, but it will all come full circle. We never know whom we may impact, or which lives could be changed by a redirection from the Lord. For the bump in the road, or the tragedy that we do not understand, we must find peace. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds.” 2

We may not see why, but in our darkest moments, one thing remains—God is moving and working in our lives.

Notes:

  1. Psalm 142: 1-3, 5-7.
  2. Phillipians 4:6-7.