“I’m not a religious person or anything, and if there was a God, this is proof that there isn’t. This is (expletive) up.” These were the words of soccer star Megan Rapinoe after her injury in her final professional game last month.
The fact that I had never heard of Rapinoe before this tells you how much I pay attention to women’s soccer — or any professional sports team. “I’m not a sports person or anything,” I might say, mimicking Rapinoe, though I once loved playing basketball and competing in track, and I have enjoyed our kids’ tennis runs.
As a former athlete who once competed at the college level, however, I understand the intensity of working diligently toward a goal and being sidelined. I experienced this after competing in indoor-track nationals with Moorhead State University in 1987, only to be injured during tryouts for outdoor nationals, suffering a painful tear of the anterior cruciate ligament of my left knee.
A difference between Rapinoe and me, however, is that when I endured this excruciating, life-changing injury, I didn’t blame God. He wasn’t the one who hooked my leg during an intense race. But he did show up later, in the form of my dad, who drove 500 miles to visit me in the hospital; and my coach and teammates, who brought cards and well-wishes; and my grandma, who got me to physical therapy appointments while my injury healed.
I’m not saying I’m better than Rapinoe just because I didn’t denounce God. But I am saddened that after all the success she has apparently achieved, the one time she likely mentioned God publicly was to say he must not exist, because how could a reasonable God let this happen? She didn’t deserve that injury!
I didn’t either, but it happened, and God helped me through it. I realized my dependence on him then as people held the door open for me at Kise Commons. I also discovered his absence when peers, laughing as I hobbled by in my crutches, yelled, “Gimpy!” I learned to more acutely spot compassion and to notice when it is missing.
But what I find most interesting about Rapinoe’s remark is how, in the very sentence in which she denounces God, she blames him for her injury. It’s a bit like a toddler having a tantrum. “I don’t like you!” the little one screams while her mother carries her, fists clenched, to her bed for naptime. She has yet to understand that her mother brought life to her and would die in her place.
Ultimately, Rapinoe’s comment gives me hope. In her attempt to show her disdain for God, she is actually expressing her belief in his reality. You can’t be mad at something that doesn’t exist, after all.
Welcome to humanity, dear one. Now that God has your attention, may you see the choices before you and discover just who it is who is carrying you over these next hard months. He loves you fiercely and is your salvation.
[For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns and articles, I reprint them here, with permission, a week after their run date. The preceding ran in The Forum newspaper on Dec. 18, 2023.]