Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Football, Faith and Healing



by Casey Peterson (bio)


Fall is here, football feeling is in the air, and the emotion that comes with it is an indescribable sensation that permeates individuals and communities. Simply put, I love it. Kenny Chesney sings of this phenomenon in his song "Boys of Fall."  He aptly describes the emotion with the lyrics;
"When I feel that chill, smell that fresh cut grass
I'm back in my helmet, cleats, and shoulder pads
Standin' in the huddle listenin' to the call
Fans goin' crazy for the boys of fall."
While at a recent game sitting in the stands on a warm, sunny day, letting the sights, sounds, and smells of fall football wash over my senses, I was basking in the euphoria of proudly watching my son Chad that I love dominate the game that I love (and hate). I watched him confidently jog onto the field and into the huddle. I watched play after play as he broke off long runs, threw pinpoint passes, interspersed by an occasional deep ball. By halftime he had thrown several touchdowns and run for another one en route to a sizable lead in the game. On one particular play, with his receivers covered, he scampered around the edge and down the sidelines for a long gain. With defensive players closing in, he ran out of bounds to end the play, only to be tackled and thrown onto the hard track. By his reaction, I thought I was going to witness his first altercation, but as the referees separated players, and he held his emotions in check, I saw him run to his coach across the field. I saw a coach grab his finger, give a quick yank, throw on some tape, and send him back out. I recognized the familiar sight of a dislocated finger, and felt the gnawing worry deep in my stomach. As the game progressed though, he appeared to be fine, and kept playing well.

That night as he got home from the game, I felt the worry return when I saw the swelling down the finger and into the hand. The next morning it was worse, so we went to the doctor. The deep worry turned to painful shock as we saw two breaks, one of them being a gruesome displacement. An immediate appointment was set with an orthopedic surgeon to set and pin the mangled finger. On Sunday, on the way back from home teaching, my son asked me for a priesthood blessing. Again the gnawing worry returned to my stomach. Would I be able to pronounce a blessing in accordance with God's will, and not my own? Would my conflicting emotions of wanting him better, but fearing yet another injury if he did return, allow me to block out myself and let God's words work through me? Would the words I would say affect my relationship with my son if they didn't happen? With these questions and others, I went to my room to pray and prepare.

Still not knowing what to say, but with a feeling a peace that had come over me, I humbly gave my son a priesthood blessing. As the words flowed from my mouth, I almost felt like I was sitting on the couch with my family listening. Instead of worrying about words, I was trying to remember what I was hearing. The next day we went to the surgeon, where preparations for surgery took about an hour. As we were wrapping up and the doctor was deciding to insert either two or three pins into the bone, my son asked for another x-ray. When the x-ray was done, we waited quite a while for the doctor to return. When he did, he was clearly troubled. He showed us how remarkably the bone had realigned, re-set, and though still broken, was completely different. He conducted some tests, found it to be straight and in place, and told us he was seeking a second opinion. The second doctor came in and confirmed surgery was not needed, and mentioned verbatim several phrases from the blessing that had been given on Sunday. A deep gratitude and humility overcame Chad and I as we walked out to the car. I asked Chad what his feelings were, and realized words were inadequate for both of us to describe what we had experienced.

I have a grandmother with cancer, a mother and a sister with lupus, and friends and neighbors suffering from many kinds of afflictions. In nearly every case, they are the most faithful and obedient people I know, certainly people with the faith to necessitate healing. They have prayed for years to be healed and requested numerous blessings, so what would a seemingly insignificant finger break be healed for a 16 year-old boy? As I pondered this, I expressed to Chad that this experience wasn't at all about football. I'm not sure why it happened, but forever our faith will be fortified with knowledge that we witnessed a miracle on an individual level from a loving God.

President Kimball said: "It must be remembered that no physician can heal. He can only provide a satisfactory environment and situation so that the body may use its own God-given power of re-creation to build itself. Bones can be straightened, germs can be killed, sutures can close wounds, and skillful fingers can open and close bodies; but no man yet has found a way to actually heal. Man is the offspring of God and has within him the re-creating power that is God-given. And through the priesthood and through prayer, the body's healing processes can be speeded and encouraged. Again, how grateful we are for the skill and patience and understanding of our great men who are trained to give us such marvelous service."

While I don't have answers to all my questions, I know with a surety that God knows my son. It makes me appreciate the sacrifice made by His Son to help us with our suffering, and grateful for the power of faith and priesthood to teach us about healing on so many levels. Friday night my son Chad will take the field to quarterback his team for their Homecoming game, two weeks after breaking his finger. I know I will worry about re-injury, a new injury, and many other things that aren’t pleasant as a parent. However, I know my faith has also been blessed through something much larger, and infinitely more important than football. I know that long after his pads and helmet are hung up, the power and testimony from this experience will continue to be a force in Chad's life, one that hopefully will be as an instrument in healing others.

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