A few seconds later, I heard the pop. I lay dazed, my lip already throbbing and snow tucked into my trousers.
There’s a reason they call a fall on the ski slope a “yard sale”. If anyone had been watching they would have seen skis, poles and legs, all rolling over themselves. One ski and boot still attached, and one released prematurely.
It wasn’t meant to end this way. I was meant to complete my ski season and nine months of ministry school, which had cost me everything I owned, and then head back to the UK after six and a half years of living and working overseas.
Instead, my final goodbye involved crutches, a leg that would no longer be supported by my knee and a hopeful, willful trust that God would do a miracle with an NHS waiting list. My scorn for the “negative” attitudes from friends and family who presented me with the reality of British health systems turned into a belief that God would hurry along the process and I could get on with whatever He wanted me to do.
And so I waited. And waited some more.
My nice tidy plan of moving back to the UK and working in publishing again seemed to be fading, as I would go for interviews, struggling in with a limp, shoulders hunched over crutches.
The first surgery came. It hadn’t even crossed my mind how it would feel to have to wait for a knee to heal, then rehab, and then do the operation process all over again a second time. People made comments: “Oh yes, I’ve had that injury, and I was fine after X,Y, and Z.” Others just asked: “What’s wrong with you?”
I would hide how much it hurt and how nervous I felt about walking, because I felt so ridiculous to still have a knee that wouldn’t function and would randomly give way.
Yet, I felt that God had said to me early on: “Amanda, you always thought adventure meant achieving something physically. But what happens if that is no longer possible? Then what?” I felt God go on to say that He was going to show me that an adventure is not always about climbing a mountain or trekking through a rainforest, but that adventure is often a trust exercise. Adventurous living requires a new level of trust. Would I take on that challenge?
I had spent seven months in ministry school, learning about God’s kindness and His goodness. Suddenly God didn’t seem very kind. I found it hard to sing the songs I had so joyfully sung the year before, as I switched between my snowboard and school. I had to face up to the reality of my theology. God couldn’t just be kind when I decided He was. He either was, or He wasn’t.
And then, as my second and final surgery on the same knee was approaching, a letter arrived in the post. Ten weeks earlier, I had finally secured a new job, and to my joy, they were willing to wait until I had had my surgery. But the surgery date still hadn’t come and the time was dragging on, as well as my capacity to have grace for my situation. The accident had occurred in April, the letter arrived in November, and me – ambitious Amanda – had to sit and wait. And now here I was, skim-reading over a letter telling me that my job no longer existed, as my new company could no longer financially afford my salary.
Although there was definitely an initial element of shock, I didn’t feel surprised. New people I had met through the year had only seen me less than able-bodied, and I had lost confidence in who I was. My trust in God had been shaken.
I had quickly learned that an injury can be more manageable with an existing job, a community of friends there to support you, a place to live, a church you’re involved with, and a direction to be heading in. I had had to re-assess who was there to support me during the trials, but I also had to have grace for others who were going through their own stuff themselves. I sometimes managed, but often I failed.
Yet God was doing a new thing.
Ten days before the Royal Mail delivered the message that I’d been made redundant, I recorded a voice memo on my phone:
“What if our pearl of great price was not giving something up financially, but what if God actually asks us to give up our time, our ideas, everything that we have planned? What if He asks us to lay it down for a season – completely out of our control. How do we react? Do we just give everything up and scream? Or do we wait until He’s done with us? What if He’s using this time to bring us to a place of being able to lay everything down, not just financially, but in everything? In our ideologies, in everything we think – in everything we think about Him. And what if He does something new with that? Are we prepared?”
God had asked me to come back to Europe after years overseas. But I’d arrived on British soil with an agenda. I knew what I was going to do, where I was going to work – the reset button was pressed.
As God worked in my heart to challenge everything I have believed about Him, He’s called me to take up a new adventure. One where others around me think I’m crazy – and I am still wondering myself.
I’ve had to realise that not everyone has the capacity to walk alongside you. Sometimes people will assume their story is the same as yours, and tell you that. Other times, people will treat you differently because you still aren’t well and better. They don’t want to hear that you still aren’t sorted and back to normal. Sometimes you realise that friends like the fun you, but not the inactive you. Then there a moments where a friend will pick up the phone or get on a plane to see you – thanks Noemie and Hanna. Other friends will have patience with you being an absolute pain in the neck – thanks Mum and Dad).
And then there’s God – who always knew that you’d get there. Who knew your theology was based on current experience, but that He wanted you to believe that He’s good all the time. He always was, and is, doing a new thing.