This article is part of Rooted’s 2019 student series, where young Christians share their experiences of faith in high school and college. Hayden Sledge is a rising sophomore at Wheaton College.
I lay on the ice, confused. What just happened? Why are all these people around me? “Hayden, are you okay?” Was I okay?
In late October, I decided to go ice skating with friends. It was a social outing, but like any overachiever, I tried to keep up. My midwestern friends had survived blizzards and this southern girl needed to prove she was capable of handling the ice.
Well, I was not the most talented of ice skaters.
Falling in what seemed like slow motion, each part of my body hit the ice, from my toes to my head. It hurt, but honestly, I was not too concerned. I just hit my head, that was all. I felt eerily calm. I was mellow.
One of my friends could tell I was out of it and encouraged me to go to the ER, worried that I might have gotten a concussion. We went to the ER even though I felt that the whole situation was overdramatized. To my surprise, I was diagnosed with a mild concussion.
That would mark the beginning of a long healing process. Healing from my concussion reminds me of the sanctification process. We are broken people, who are becoming more like Christ day by day. This process is intense, difficult, yet beautiful all at once. It is a transformation that brings us closer to our heavenly Father.
The Lord used my concussion as a way to bring spiritual transformation. As a person who likes to plan and control things, I was thrown off. Getting a concussion during the first semester of my freshman year was not on the agenda. I did not have time for a concussion. By the grace of God, I was freshman class co-president, involved with many clubs, interning for a congressional campaign, growing friendships, and taking classes. Tired, overcommitted, spread thin—that was me. I was exhausted and drank coffee like it was water. In my eyes, I could not do anything with excellence, because I did not have enough time to intentionally invest in all of my obligations. The concussion was surely not going to help with that.
I have always battled with finding my identity in Christ alone. I logically know my identity is found only in Him, though I can get caught up in the desire to prove my worth. Proving my worth looks different depending on the season of my life. Generally, that has meant doing as much as I can with the time I have. This sounds good in theory, but ends up being an unsatisfying way to live. Having your life scheduled down to the minute is a life filled with anxiety, chaos, and little time for spontaneous and joyful moments through the day. It is like running on a treadmill, striving to maintain your energy and motivation.
But because of the concussion, I had to say no to obligations and commitments. Sure, I had an excuse, but I still worried about letting people down. Doctors and nurses wanted me out of class, out of meetings, even giving this advice: “Try not to think too hard about anything.” (I still, to this day, do not fully understand how to carry out that suggestion, but it did bring some comic relief to the situation.)
The concussion was such a blessing, but it felt like a curse. I had the opportunity to rest, as dictated by my doctors. My schedule was wiped clean. That was a gift, but it also felt like an excuse, a way to run from the busyness. People were kind and grace-giving, but I also felt that my concussion did not warrant unproductive days. People would ask me how I was doing. I was genuinely thankful for their kindness, love, and prayers. I hated telling them that I was not going to be in class for a little bit longer or that my headaches are still frequent. Healing from a concussion is excruciatingly long, difficult, inconvenient, and frustrating. Things that are obvious parts of everyday life like sound and light became triggers for pain and headaches. The concussion humbled me in every way possible. I had to depend on the Lord above all else. He was, and is, my one foundation.
The Lord used this injury as a way of protecting his exhausted and overcommitted daughter. He knew that I needed rest. The concussion forced me to rest and to carry out a generally slower pace of life. In fact, my ER doctor said, “You need to rest.” How crazy is that, that we have a Lord that knows exactly what we need and uses the brokenness of the world to work out all things for good?
I struggled to find rest on my own, but through His provision, I was able to rest, even if getting to that end was difficult. Yes, the concussion was a physical injury, but it was a way of spiritual healing as well. The Lord showed me what it is like to surrender my life to Him, to have patience, and to rest assured in His goodness. Praying out loud is helpful. Giving thanks to the Lord before anything else helps me remember the faithfulness of the Lord, the promise that He will work all things out for good.
I hope everyone does not need a concussion to be reminded of God’s power and sovereignty over all things, but I am glad that we have a faithful God who better knows what we need than we ever will. Praise Him when you do not understand. Praise Him in the pain. Praise Him in the chaos. When we faithfully live into His promises, we are able to make more sense of life.