If you follow college football, you probably know by now that the University of South Carolina suffered a terrible tragedy yesterday. If you were watching the game, you couldn't help but be heartbroken as we saw a talented, young football player, one of the best in the nation, Marcus Lattimore take a nasty hit to the knee. Now this injury would be tragic regardless, but the fact that Lattimore had fought his way back from a similar injury last year only to have another major setback. This wasn't just a set back. Everyone watching knew that this could very well be a career ending injury. We watched as the crowd grew unified in their cheers. Players from both teams flooded the field. All waiting for their hero to arise. And we watched, as Marcus was carted off the field. Across team lines, folks were flooding the internet with support, their hearts broken, for a young man who's hard work and talent seemed lost in an instant.
As you know, we're not strangers to having our dreams turned upside down in an instant. And so, today, Pierce and I set out to do our part in encouraging Marcus. It's funny, because it's probably the last thing I thought I'd ever do- spend time writing a fan letter to a well-known athlete. But I remembered the messages that flooded in when Pierce was so sick. I remembered how much they touched us. And the ones we received from strangers... they were oftentimes the ones that humbled us the most.
So here it is, our letter to Marcus, from one hero to another.
You and I are very different and yet so much alike. I’m only 18 months old, but to so many, I’ve become their hero. And yesterday, you became a hero in so many hearts.
When I was born 4 months early, doctors didn’t predict I’d go far. In fact, they only gave me a 5% chance of survival. And then, when I suffered a devastating brain bleed, their predictions for me grew even dimmer. But during my 4.5 month stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, one thing became obvious: I am a fighter. And another thing is obvious: you are too.
You see you are a hero, whether you ever make another football play. I’ve found that what defines a hero lies not in his ability to do something. No, a hero is instead found when his character shines greater than his inability to do something. What makes us heroes is not our abilities. What makes us heroes is our strength to rise above the circumstances handed to us, our ability to say “Jesus is enough. He is Good and He will give me the strength I need to make it through this trial.” If we do this, we will demonstrate to the world the courage that it takes to face tragedy head on. We will show them that a true hero gives it his all, even if it means he only gains a small amount of progress. Even if it means his goal takes years to accomplish.
Every day I work hard to accomplish goals that come so easily to healthy children. I spend hours in therapy just so I can learn to reach my favorite toy. I have to struggle to get my left hand to work the way I want it. Sometimes I wonder why? Why did this happen to me and why can’t God just heal me and take away this struggle?
But I know that God is using my pain for good. And He will use yours for good as well.
He has given me a new path, one that's reached so many people that would not have been impacted had I been a healthy baby.
Please don’t let self pity rob you of an opportunity to demonstrate to the world your heroic capabilities. And don’t let it steal your joy. But when you do start to feel that dreaded pity (and it will come), remind yourself that God is Sovereign. That seemingly coincidental and accidental play, that was ordained by Him. Just like my seemingly accidental and premature birth was also ordained by Him. And as mad and frustrated as that makes you, know that there is purpose. There is purpose in your pain. There is purpose in my pain.
Maybe one of the purposes for my pain is to encourage you?
As you go forward, remember that people will be watching. They’ll be watching to see how you handle this. Does it end your career? More importantly, does it end your faith? Does it end your joy? Or does it do the opposite- increase your joy, increase your ability to show your strength and make you more than just a football star? What if this injury is the start of a bigger and better purpose for your life?
One last thing: give your mom a hug. My mom is my biggest fan and I know yours is too. And know that in many ways, the pain she feels is far greater than yours. All of her dreams and desires for you, they’ve been devastated and destroyed in the same instant you were injured. But she will be rooting for you. She’ll likely be the one standing beside you, telling you that you can do ANYTHING, go ANYWHERE from here. (We’re all praying that we will be able to see you make more football plays!)
And you can. You can because you and I must cling to the promise that “With God all things are possible” and trust that He is at work in the midst of our pain and suffering.
From one hero to another,