Sweeney

SweeneyFreedom

“ Two surgeons spent three hours putting my legs back together.”

   I had never felt that kind of pain before. When I looked at my legs, it didn’t even seem real.

   I was at a trampoline park celebrating the end of the school year with my little “brother” and other students from the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and we were having a blast. I was in my element, entertaining the kids with all the tricks I had learned from years of extreme sports. I built up some extra height for a double front flip and prepared for takeoff. But it never happened. Instead, my knees buckled on impact and I screamed for help as I tried to make sense of what was happening. Both of my knees were completely dislocated and I couldn’t move my lower legs.

   After they rushed me to the hospital, doctors confirmed that I had ruptured both of my patellar tendons. Two surgeons spent three hours putting my legs back together. The doctors explained that my legs would be immobilized for six weeks and then I would begin six months of physical therapy to learn how to walk again. It would be a long journey, but at the end I would be able to return to a “normal” life.

   As I spent the next ten weeks stuck in a chair in my living room, I experienced an overwhelming outpouring of love. Friends stopped by to visit, family helped with errands and chores, coworkers brought medical equipment, and people from Radiant brought us delicious meals. My wife heroically took care of the house, both kids, and me day after day. I couldn’t dress myself, I couldn’t bathe myself, I couldn’t get my own food, I couldn’t use the restroom on my own. When I was helpless, the Lord surrounded me with a community of people to carry me through.

   But no matter how many amazing people showed up to help us, eventually they would leave and I would be left alone in that chair again. I focused on counting my blessings and trying to stay positive, praying that I would have the strength to choose joy over despair. But I couldn’t do it. I would try to read scripture and get closer to Him, but it felt like the Lord was suddenly distant. I felt all alone and completely helpless. I wanted to snap out of it, but for the first time in my life there was a depression slowly pushing the joy out of my life. I felt like a terrible husband and father for months as I watched my wife take care of everything while I sat by helplessly. I felt like I was letting my team down at work, knowing that my portion of projects were falling farther and farther behind schedule every day. And as trivial as it sounds, I couldn’t stop thinking about park our, skiing, skating, diving, football, basketball, and all of my favorite activities that I would probably never get to do again. Without the ability to care for my family, contribute at work, or push myself as an athlete I felt like I had completely lost my identity. I felt like a shell of a man, not able to do anything useful for anyone, including myself.

   “But no matter how many amazing people showed up to help us, eventually they would leave and I would be left alone in that chair again.”

   As the months passed by there were small wins; putting my own socks on for the first time, using leg braces and a walker to hobble to the end of the driveway, eventually waddling up the stairs to sleep in my own bed for the first time. I praised God for every little improvement, but in the hours and days in between these victories I still struggled to stay positive. Through those months in the chair I began to understand something about myself; I needed to achieve to be happy. I realized that my entire life I had been gauging my self-worth based on my performance. My successes had fed an inflated ego and my failures had created deep insecurities. One day, words I had spoken to the Lord months before came rushing back to me; I had asked for Him to teach me humility. I began to realize that while I had read about God’s grace, sung Amazing Grace, and had even taught about divine grace, I had never fully accepted His grace. Whether it was sports, work, or family, I had put so much of my identity in things and achievements that ultimately weren’t God and His grace. In an unlikely answer to prayer, the Lord was using this ordeal to break down my pride, soften my heart, and build a new identity for me; an identity that wasn’t rooted in accomplishments or abilities, but in the unconditional love of God.

   Because of the support of everyone around me I began to believe that I was worthy of love, regardless of what I could or couldn’t do. It didn’t happen overnight, but over many months my legs and my identity both gradually grew stronger.

   I could help around the house again, be an active father to my children, and serve with Radiant Students, all while knowing that my identity was firmly rooted in Jesus. My prayer now is that everyone could experience the freedom that comes from knowing your true identity as a child of God, freedom from the pressures of this world and the weight of our own expectations. Hopefully not everyone else will have to break their legs to do it!

   “In an unlikely answer to prayer, the Lord was using this ordeal to break down my pride, soften my heart, and build a new identity for me...”

Sweeney's Hearing His Voice Testimony

Click on PDF and set the printer to print both sides in color using landscape and fold.