We were sitting in the cold grass on a hill above the field, the temperature hovering near forty degrees, the air brisk and still enough to hear the screams as they lifted from the pile of high school football players.
Horrible, gut-wrenching screams, and the crowd went silent, our hearts in our throats as the coaches ran out from the sidelines. I began counting my players—I had two boys on the field—searching for their numbers between the pads.
I found one of them. The other lay on the field, tangled up in the screaming.
Oh please, God, don’t let it be my boy. Yes, I was that selfish.
The referees signaled for the ambulance, and it bumped out across the goal line, the ten, the twenty, all the way to the fifty.
Meanwhile, a few parents ran out into the field.
I stay glued to the hill, watching, nearly weeping when my other boy rose from the tumble, having been caught underneath the injured player.
I learned later that he was the one who’d caused the injury. It happens in football; people trip, fall, and in this case, land on each other’s legs. He’d snapped his teammate’s leg in two places.
I saw him on the sidelines, weeping, and it took everything inside me not to rush down, wrap him in my arms.
The worst part was, we had long feared this moment.
Football players get a bad rap. Many think the game is all about bravado and aggression. Yes, on Friday nights, when it’s fourth and goal, probably. But mostly, it’s about being willing to face your fears and do your job for the team.
I didn’t realize there might be another side until the coach came to us earlier in the season. “Something’s wrong with your boy. He’s just not as aggressive as he used to be.”
Now, in any other context, I’d be happy with this statement, but since the strategy in football is always to hit the other guy harder than he hits you in order to keep from injury, this concerned me.
See, football is half toughness, half smarts. And it’s all mental. Sure, you need to be in shape, but the fact is, it can be a dangerous, painful game, and it’s easy as a player to be psyched out and defeated before you even take the field.
(Not that I know, but I picked up a few things during my years as a football mom.)
So, my husband sat my son down and asked, “What’s going on in your head?”
It took some finagling, but my son surprised me with his answer. ”I don’t want to hurt anyone.”
And my husband shocked me even more with his reply, “I understand. I struggled with the same thing.”
I stared at my son—my big son, who can squat 345, and bench 285—and saw not the big defensive end, but a kid with a gentle heart.
And it was this man who became Jace Jacobsen, hero for It Had to Be You.
Jace is an enforcer for the St. Paul Blue-Ox Hockey team. He used to be a great player, until he got a rep as a bruiser who could carry himself in a fight. Now he makes his living by entertaining the crowd with his fists.
And he hates it. More, too many concussions threaten to end his career—and his life—should he take another hit to the head. But he believes that hockey is all he has. . . .
His mouth fell into a grim line. “I beat people up for a living. How can God possibly like me? I feel like a cautionary tale–look kids, don’t be like Jace Jacobsen, only skidding into heaven under the pads, or worse, due to a technicality.”
Her mouth opened, and he looked away fast, as if embarrassed.
Until Eden comes around, needing him. And suddenly Jace realizes God has a much bigger plan for him than throwing down his gloves on the ice.
Do you ever look at your life and wonder if God is wasting His time? Wonder if you should have done something different with your life . . . if there is anything God can do with it? Join Jace as he discovers that God knows exactly what He is doing in my newest book, It Had to Be You.
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