For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. — Jeremiah 29:11
Have you ever questioned God’s plan for your life? Emily and I have.
For me It was October 16, 2010, I was lying face down motionless from my neck down after making a tackle in a college football game. I willed my arms to push off the ground but nothing worked. I begged my legs to move, to do anything, but I remained motionless.
(Excerpt from chapter 1 of The Seven Longest Yards:)
The EMTs rolled me off the field toward the waiting ambulance. The crowd clapped like they do every time an injured player is helped off the field. Typically, in these situations, the athlete gives the crowd a thumbs-up to let them know he’s going to be okay. I tried to force my thumb to rise, but it didn’t respond. I tried again and again and again.
At that moment I wanted to give the crowd a thumbs-up more than anything in the world. I wanted to tell them, and myself, that I was going to be okay. But I couldn’t. I had been to a lot of sporting events in my life in which players went down with an injury and had to be helped off the field. I had never seen one, not a single one, fail to give a wave or a thumbs-up or some little sign to the crowd that he was going to be okay. If I knew then what I know now, I’d have given the crowd a thumbs-down. Of course, I couldn’t do that either. Oh no! Why is this happening? When will this stop?
Twenty or twenty-five minutes had gone by since I hit the ground. My “stinger” had not gone away. I had no more feeling in any part of my body below my neck than I did the moment I hit the ground. Even worse, I couldn’t get enough air. I felt as though I was breathing through a straw. Fear rose up inside me. Please, God, make this go away. Let me get up off this thing. I don’t care if I ever play football again. Just let me get up off this and walk.
I had suffered a severe spinal cord injury and was given a 3% chance to ever regain movement or feeling from my neck down.
My thoughts were: How can I live a good life from a wheelchair? Who will love me? Who am I now? My identity was wrapped up in being an athlete and my physical abilities.
However, after starting my nonprofit The Chris Norton Foundation and my motivational speaking career I began to see there was more to life than my physical movements.
As my foundation evolved, so did my recovery. For far too long, I was convinced that I needed my physical abilities to be happy. My foundation helped me realize that life is about giving yourself to others and helping people. I began to see how I could have a richer life than I ever imagined, even if I never took another step as long as I lived. It also gave me contentment in the present while still having hope for a recovery.
We would’ve never imagined that in just a short seven years our foundation would’ve raised almost $1 million, been able to put on a wheelchair camp for children, and give so many grants to hospitals and rehab facilities to help those with neurological disorders.
I kept working and progressing with my recovery. Five years later I was able to walk the stage of my college graduation with the help of my fiancée, Emily. The video went viral and inspired over 300 million people worldwide.
Five years before, doctors told me I had a three percent chance of ever moving anything below my shoulders again. I wondered how I could ever go back to school and get my degree. I worried that no one would see past my injury and love me for who I am. That graduation Sunday, I shattered those odds. I shattered those doubts. True, I didn’t have the kind of life I had imagined. This one was even better.
I discovered that just like in Jeremiah 29:11 that God has a bigger plan for us than the one we have for ourselves. That God has a plan for us, to prosper and to have a future. My injury would lead me to meet Emily, the woman of my dreams. It led us o open our home to seventeen foster children who were desperately in need of a safe and loving place, which led us to adopt our five incredible girls. With Him we successfully conquered our next goal of walking seven yards down the aisle of our wedding.
To get past our greatest setbacks we have to tell ourselves that God is planning our comeback.
That His plan is greater than our own plans. To do this it takes a courageous faith. It means putting one foot in front of the other even if you don’t know where you are going.
Written for Faith.Full by Chris Norton, co-author with Emily Norton of The Seven Longest Yards.
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Are you in a crisis right now? Are you asking God “How can I live a good life from here? Who will love me? Who am I now?” If so, take Jeremiah 29:11 to heart. God has good plans for you… far greater than what you had envisioned before. Be strong and courageous! Come share your thoughts with us on our blog. We want to hear from you about choosing the kind of courageous faith that trusts even when life goes so differently from what you planned! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full