She lies crumpled near the goal, in front of the other team’s spectators, and her wail impales my heart. But I’m a good soccer mom/nama, so I sit glued to my chair while her coach runs to her. Soon he’ll sweep her up in his arms (with a few jokes), set her down on the bench to collect herself, and she’ll be back on the field in no time.

But not this time.

Two dads from the other scrimmage team join John and hover over her, and now I’m running across the field with another nurse mom. Grace can’t stop crying, can’t catch her breath, and she won’t move her right arm. She manages to tell us she felt something pop when she hit the ground, and I see the telltale bump.

Later in urgent care after an x-ray, nobody has to point out the white jagged line on her clavicle.

She couldn’t wait for soccer season, but it’s is over before it starts. Her disappointment is as palpable as her pain.

My heart crumples.

She has to find a new way to sleep, a new way to care for all her activities of daily living. She’ll need to depend on others. She’ll need to learn to ask for help, to accept help, to wait for help.

She’ll need to let pain be her guide.

The way up her long drive is paved with potholes, so she chooses to camp out here.

We saw another kind of pothole in the bed of the Presque Isle River.

“The finely terraced rock over which the river flows is called Nonesuch Shale . . . The round potholes in the riverbed form where an eddy current continually swirls pebbles and sand grains in a circular path. Over time, the scouring action of these materials wear away the softer shale forming the large, smooth-sided potholes that you see.”

I reflect on this. Our lives are paved with potholes, bumps we travel over and through on our journeys. And sometimes it takes troubled waters to soften our rough edges, to swirl life’s grit in heart holes scoured to hold more of Him.

I’m both tickled and sobered when I trip over this verse from The Message.

Crying is better than laughing. It blotches the face, but it scours the heart. ~Ecclesiastes 7:3

“God’s going to teach all of us some patience,” I tell her, as I pull splint tight, force shoulders back, make her stand tall. She’ll have very good posture when she heals.

I remind Grace that her mom tore an ACL during a soccer game and needed knee surgery. She was the same age.

“So it’s a family tradition?” she winces as she laughs.

We agree that her sister should not play sports in fifth grade.

I prop her up on couch, place serving tray on hassock pulled close. And at night, I crumple myself into the leather folds of a too-short loveseat nearby.

Before the week is out, we travel around sharp curves, over dips and potholes down a country road so she can sit on the bench and cheer her team on toward the goal.

when pain crumples

by Sandra Heska King time to read: 3 min