Athlete, Your Mere Presence Can Heal


Athlete, Your Mere Presence Can Heal

Jason Cooper

Mark 14:32 (NIV)

They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to His disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”

People didn’t know what to say to me. And I wasn’t talking. It was the biggest loss I could’ve imagined. I tore my ACL a week before the first basketball game of my senior year in high school and was out for the season.

Ironically, the most hurtful things people said to me were, “We don’t always understand God’s plan,” and “It was God’s will.” Those sayings felt cold and canned. A cliché didn’t honor the pain I was going through. They made me think I was crazy for feeling so despondent. 

The most helpful thing someone did was offer their presence. 

Trevor had been my mentor and role model in high school before he graduated. He was three years older than me and in college when I got injured. One cold dark night in December he left his college campus and drove an hour to visit me after my surgery. 

Trevor sat on the couch next to me as I laid with an ice machine on my elevated knee. He just sat there – maybe like Jesus wanted His disciples to do.

He didn’t have clichés. Instead, he offered space for me to fumble and hurt. He offered his tears too. I told him about my dashed dreams as he took it in. I felt felt

There was healing in the emotions that moved within and between us. 

That was exactly what I needed, not because that’s the type of person I am. But because in our darkest times, all of us need more than facts, answers and clichés. 

But, Christians often use clichés. 

We offer canned statements and objective truths in times of acute pain and grief. But they don’t touch our grief, questions, and poverty. 

It’s not that clichés aren’t true. But that they may signal our unwillingness to attune and respond to others. They may signal our unwillingness to contain and engage others. 

They may signal that we haven’t accepted grief, loss, and limitations in our own lives. They might reveal we aren’t interested in knowing or caring for someone. All those things add grief to grief. 

Student athlete, here are seven things to remember when you’re with someone who’s hurting: 

1) God put a space in you to help contain others. 

2) God gave you the ability to attune to others’ feelings and thoughts. 

3) There can be healing in the emotions that move between us and others. 

4) People need people. God designed our brains and bodies for connection with others. 

5) It’s possible that your instinct to use clichés and Christianese is an avoidance technique disguised as a proverb. 

6) God gave you a body, so you can drive an hour to be with someone in their dark night. 

7) Even Jesus asked for company in His dark night.


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