Becoming More Like Christ
In 1983, I was a high school senior playing football in Nebraska. We had a dominant team and cruised through the regular season and first two playoff games unchallenged. Our team was soaring with confidence and expectation as we traveled to the state championship. After an hour-long ride, we confidently piled off the bus to finish business and become, at least in our minds, a dynasty in Nebraska football.
I was holding the ball for our kicker on a kickoff play. He booted it deep and expected that the faster guys on our team would get down there and knock the poor ball carrier into the next county. This time, however, the ball carrier found a gap and barreled toward me. We collided somewhere between the 30 and 35 yard line and my helmet met his helmet with tremendous force. The pain was not excruciating and with adrenaline galore, I tried to get up. Nothing happened. The game video shows some of my teammates trying to help me up. A medic came racing over and waved off my teammates. I later learned that he saw the way I went down and knew it looked “fishy”. My Mom, Dad and brother soon joined the fray of medical personnel and coaches on the field. I remember Mom squeezing my hand with a worried look on her face asking if I could feel it. I could not and it was heartbreaking to let her know the truth. In the 3 minute ride to the hospital, I can remember two exceptionally comforting thoughts: the Lord gave me the peace that passes all understanding and the conviction that this whole experience was going to ramp up both my need and dependence on Him. Rather than being fearful, I experienced more peace on my way to the hospital than I ever had to that point in my life.
An x-ray showed that I had dislocated C4-5 and cracked one of the vertebrae as well. When my vertebrae were dislocated, the spinal cord was pinched and damaged. My lifetime diagnosis was labeled a C4-5 incomplete injury. I was now a quadriplegic.
As a new quadriplegic paralyzed from the neck down, I was flown to a hospital in Denver to start the rehab process. Slowly but surely our Lord began to help me recover some movement! More importantly, He continued to increase my love for the Lord Jesus. After almost four months, I was able to come home and graduate with my high school class.
Looking back, the extraordinary events of that providential night certainly added trials to a life that had previously been largely carefree. But with those came God’s sufficient grace times a thousand! He has unloaded one blessing after another. It has proven to be one of just a few events in my first 56 years that I would not trade for anything because of the sanctification I would have missed out on without it. My wife, Amy, and I have been married 20 years and are blessed with out two children, Ben and Maggie.
I am still confined to a wheelchair and Amy and my children carry much of the load. In addition, six different godly, servant-hearted friends, each with their own morning of the week, relentlessly serve our family by getting me out of bed and ready for the day. My job of teaching Bible at a Christian school continues to provide tremendous joy and would be one of my favorite pastimes even if it wasn’t my job. For me, being a quadriplegic was my journey to being more like Christ. He is using all things - no matter what it is - to perfect the Gospel in me.
Photos for Jerry
PHOTO 1 of 13