2 weeks ago our son, Benji, had to have his second Tommy John surgery. We were so saddened to find out he had to go thru this unpleasant procedure again and begin the arduous, 18 month rehab just 1 month after completing the first one. While it wasn't what we wanted, we still knew that somehow God would use it for good. We just didn't know that we would be able to see evidence of that good so soon.
I traveled to TN to be with Benji for the surgery and we had a great time the night before having dinner with 2 of his good buddies. When he went into surgery the next day we were unsure if the Tommy John would be needed. They called the waiting room to tell me they were, in fact, going to have to take a tendon from a cadaver and substitute it for a ligament in his elbow and I admit I did shed some tears. I managed to pull it together by the time the trainer got there and we waited to see Benji. As soon as he woke up he asked me what they'd done and it was sad to have to fill in the missing pieces for him. The journey was beginning again.
Benji slept for a couple of hours when we got back to his apartment and then he got up to eat. He hadn't been up long when there was a knock at his door. He opened the door and his friend, Silje, was standing there. He asked her how she was doing and she tearfully said she wasn't doing well and asked if she could come in. He told her of course and in she came, wiping her tears as she did.
Silje was a foreign student from Norway and had been on a soccer scholarship this year as a freshman. Due to some unfortunate developments, though, Silje was being forced to return to Norway in 2 days. While she had been at MTSU she had surrendered her life to the Lord and had started attending FCA with Benji and the others. She had begun to grow and to understand what it meant to walk with Jesus. She started talking about the fact that she was scared to go back to Norway because she doesn't know any other Christians there and her family was very against God. She said she had been so happy to be at MTSU because she had friends who encouraged her in her relationship with the Lord and helped keep her accountable. Benji told her how proud he was of her and how much growth he had seen in her during that year.
Silje wasn't sure where she was going to live when she got back to Norway. She and her mother had a broken relationship and hadn't spoken in quite some time. Her dad was a self-proclaimed atheist and she had no siblings. She said she had always been a good girl, had gotten good grades and was a very good soccer player. She said it had given her parents a false sense that she had not been affected by their selfish choices and ultimate divorce when, in fact, she felt like she had always been overlooked and had fallen thru the cracks of their broken family. She openly wondered if failing school and doing drugs would have garnered her the attention she so desperately wanted from the ones who were supposed to love and advocate for her the most. The more she struggled thru the tears to share her story the harder time I had holding it all together myself. After an hour Silje said goodnight and Benji and I were left to process all she had shared.
I didn't sleep much that night. I'm sure the broken recliner I found myself in was a contributing factor, but really it was Silje's words questioning her worth and how she was going to maneuver these unexpected developments in her school career as she headed back to Norway that kept me up that night. The stress she felt not knowing how her living arrangements would play out had messed with my Mama's heart and I was praying and planning.
I called Tim the next morning and shared Silje's story. I barely got done relaying the sad details when he asked me if I was planning on bringing her home with me. Ha!! He knows me well. I asked him if he would be opposed to that and he said he trusted me and I could do what I felt was best. That was all I needed. Benji called Silje and told her he and I wanted to talk to her and an hour later we were once again assembled in a dorm room together. I asked her how the process works for her being a foreign student and what hoops she would need to jump thru. I asked her if she had a chance to stay in the States if she would want to and she said she absolutely would.
I looked Silje in the eye and told her I was so sorry she had never felt like she was worth fighting for. I told her I was sorry that those who were entrusted with the most precious privilege of instilling worth and value in her had, for whatever reasons, been unable to rise to the challenge. I told her that Jesus thought she was worth fighting for and we thought she was worth fighting for, too. I didn't know what it would ultimately look like, but I told Silje we would do whatever we could to try and ensure her time here in the States was not coming to a permanent close. We shared with her about a college right near our house, Georgia Gwinnett College, that has a women's soccer team. We agreed she should stick with her plan of flying back to Norway the next day since the plane ticket had been bought, but we trusted that this was not the end of the story. We parted with a heartfelt hug and agreed to be in touch in the next day or two.
As promised, Silje contacted me a couple of days later to ask how I thought she should proceed. I gave her the email for the GGC soccer coach and suggested she initiate with him. She did and he said he would most definitely like to talk to her and she needed to send him a copy of her release from MTSU so he knew he was not committing any NCAA violations. She did that and their dialogue began with her forwarding me all their correspondence. To say that the coach was eager to add her to his team is an understatement and within a couple of days she was offered a FULL RIDE scholarship!!!!!! Tuition, meals, books and out-of-state fees were all being covered!!! She would just need a place to stay and he had a girl on the team who had offered her a room in her apartment for $400 a month. The college is not far from our house, but Silje is not licensed to drive in the States so easy access to the college is necessary. We're still working out the details of providing for the apartment cost, but...
tomorrow Silje will sign a letter of intent to play soccer at Georgia Gwinnett College!!!
And now we come full circle in the story. Remember I started with how sad we were about Benji's second Tommy John surgery, but that we trusted Papa to redeem it? Without the surgery I would not have been in TN that night. Without the surgery I would never have met Silje and would never have heard her story directly from her. Without the surgery I would not have had a glimpse into the heart of a little girl who wanted to know if she was worth fighting for.
Without that surgery...
So 2 weeks to the day, our sadness over another setback was turned into rejoicing!!! While starting over isn't at the top of Benji's list of things he wanted to do, he's able to see the big picture. He sees how God's ways are so much higher than our ways and that the life of a Norwegian girl is forever going to be linked to ours in a powerful way. He sees that we now get a front row seat to watch God continue the work He has begun in our friend, Silje, and that none of it may have been possible without his sacrifice.
Redemption is God's specialty!!
I am so thankful He allows us to have glimpses into His sovereign ways. We may never totally know the impact our lives have on others, but how cool for Him to allow a 20 year old young man who trusts Jesus with his life to see some of the pieces come together.