Playing Hurt

by Andy Wood on November 1, 2010

in Ability, Enlarging Your Capacity, Life Currency, LV Cycle

Saw a strange thing the other day.  We’d driven to Abilene to watch the Hardin-Simmons Cowboys defend the Wilford Moore trophy against local rival McMurray for the 20th straight year.  Division III football at its finest.

HSU had already knocked out the starting quarterback.  Number 2 wasn’t faring much better.  Scrambling around in the backfield, he was nailed at midfield for about a 12-yard loss.

McMurray lined up for the next play.  Shotgun formation. All of a sudden, the quarterback called timeout, turned toward the sideline, and ripped his helmet off.  Next thing I know, he’s on his knees, then hands-and-knees, and he wasn’t praying.

Hmmm.  Maybe he was.

Anyway, he got some immediate attention, of course.  But it was hard to see what was going on from where we sat.  He team gathered around him, then was shooed away by the coaches.

Turns out, he threw up.

On the field.


My guess is, he was hit so hard on the previous play that his lunch had other ideas.

And then this second-string quarterback did an interesting thing.  He took a sip of whatever, strapped on his helmet, and called a play.

His team was routed 34-13, but he was the MVP as far as I was concerned.  He played hurt (actually threw a touchdown pass later) when his team needed him the most.

Football Doesn’t Always Imitate Life

There was no hiding the distress that Q-2 faced Saturday afternoon.  But many other people – possibly you – face a different dilemma.

You’re playing hurt and nobody knows it.

To the people around you, you’re large and in charge – the sound and fury of your world.  But behind the smiles and deflected praise you live with that chronic ache that nobody else can see.

You’re injured. Maybe self-inflicted, maybe sucker-punched in the heart by somebody else.  Maybe life just zigged when you zagged, and like the people in the stands Saturday, nobody could tell how hard the hit really was.

You’ve become an expert at being all that everybody else needs you to be.  You handle multiple roles with flair, and competing priorities with poise.  And somewhere you’ve convinced yourself that you don’t really need anybody to return the favor.  After all, the Lord is your source.  And when you have Him, you really don’t need other people.

Uh huh.

You’re adored by many, but you’re lonely as hell.  In fact, never has anybody who is loved by so many been truly known by so few.  You’re greatly admired, but convinced they really don’t know the real you, or else…

Or else, they would see what you see.

You have a Teflon exterior that brilliantly hides the times your heart is crushed.  Nobody – nobody – knows the tears you have shed.

You would call for help, but the truth is, nobody can really help you. You’ve “out-awsomed” yourself, and no one around you would have much of a clue what to do anyway.  Moreover, even when somebody else knows what to do, they don’t do it.  It all lands back in your lap anyway.

Rest is something you do with a planner or a smart phone nearby.  Busyness is often  your drug of choice – numbing you to the reality of what would happen if you ever allowed yourself to get completely still and quiet.  On many days you can keep moving enough to ignore the soreness, but the constant motion never completely erases it.

You have spent a lifetime being strong for everybody else.  And they don’t know that sometimes behind all that adulthood, you feel like throwing a tantrum because just once you wish somebody would be strong for you.

You’re playing hurt, and nobody knows it.

Until now.

(By the way, if this doesn’t describe you, chances are, it describes somebody you know… and you probably know who I’m talking about.)

Answers for the Walking Wounded

Betcha think this is the point where I’m going to tell you to take that two-week cruise, delegate more, or get some help for your heart before you get really messed up.


First of all, you’ve trained yourself too well to ignore such advice from the mediocre masses.  You’ve been wearing a cape too long for that.

Second, you genuinely care about what you do and who you serve.  And that love compels you in ways that few people understand.  Love of people, love of service, love of the game, love of the work.  To ask you to walk away is to ask you to quit being who you are.  And that ain’t happening.

The truth is, for you, the clock is still ticking, and it’s game time.  Your “team” – whoever that is – needs you, even if you’re playing hurt.  To frame it in the words of Jesus, the night is coming when nobody can work (John 9:4).  But for now, the sun’s still shining.

That said, you can find help, healing, safety and wisdom for the pain.

1.  Call a time out.

You may not be able to take yourself out of the game, but you can stop the clock for a bit.  For you that may be something as simple as taking a nap.  Lunch with a friend.  A walk in the woods, just to remember what crackling leaves beneath your feet sounds like.  Try unplugging and unplanning for a couple of hours.

2.  Get on your knees.

This time I do mean praying. “Forever Reign” by Hillsongs (you must watch this if you don’t know it)  captures it powerfully in another way:

Oh I’m running to your arms,

I’m running to your arms

The riches of your love

Will always be enough

Nothing compares to your embrace

Light of the world forever reign!

There is no other substitute for running into the arms of the Lord Jesus.  Let Him refresh, restore, and heal you.  But you must “come away” for that to happen.

3.  Get a “trainer.”

When an athlete goes down on the field, somebody has to make a judgment call based on wisdom, knowledge, and what’s best for the player and the team.

In other words, somebody other than the player or even the coach.

Do you have somebody like that?  Do you have somebody who can encourage you when you’re soaring and scoring, but will also tell you when you’re being a danger to yourself or others and pull you out of the game?

Some people have “trainers” like Michael Jackson had a doctor.  That’s not what I’m talking about.  I’m talking about someone who knows you, and knows your “game,” but wants you to succeed in the long run.

Do you have anybody who knows you well enough to spot your “tells” – the signs that you’re done for the day?

Do you have someone you trust enough to look out for you when you won’t look out for yourself?  Who will throw in the towel for you when you refuse to do it?

Everybody doesn’t need to know the extent of your pain.  But one person, at least, should.  And you need to trust them to see what you can’t.

4.  Get the support of your team.

Nobody asked the right tackle to play quarterback on Saturday.  But they did ask him to play tackle!  In the same way, others may not be able to do your work, but by doing theirs with excellence your load gets much lighter.

And I’m here to tell you, maybe it’s time for a little team meeting.  Let them know you need their help.

Somebody Knows

When you’re playing hurt, you will discover an elegant power that comes from knowing that somewhere, somebody understands.

Somebody does.

And today I thought it would help to tell you that.

Now strap on that helmet and call the play.  I’ll run interference for you for a while.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Dallas Stevens November 1, 2010 at 4:10 pm

great blog post andy. i also love the song forever reign. it’s in the plans to do that one soon at the springs. i love the first line especially… you are good, you are good when there’s nothing good in me. i think you are absolutely right about having a “trainer.” although in my personal experience that has been hard to come by. that may just be a growing edge for me. i don’t know if that is just my personal nature or if it is common for others as well. being a mentor for other worship leaders is something i have always had a passion for, it’s the being mentored part that has been hard for me. even though i know it’s needed (and something god has been showing me…).

Andy Wood November 1, 2010 at 5:04 pm

Hi Dallas! Good to hear from you. Yeah, I just heard it for the first time yesterday and it so moved me I HAD to track it down.

It’s interesting – in the feedback I’ve gotten so far, the issue of the mentor/trainer is the one I have heard the most about, one way or the other. I once heard Howard Hendricks say that every man needs three other men in his life – a Paul, a Barnabas, and a Timothy. Paul is the mentor, Timothy is the one(s) you are pouring into. And Barnabas? He’s your friend – “who loves you but isn’t impressed by you.”

The ones I know who do this well are very intentional, and willing to take the initiative to reach out. They also are willing to keep looking until they find a fit. And until they do, they decide to enjoy the search.

With regard to the mentor/trainer, our culture (especially West Texas culture) encourages independence, and sometimes looks suspect at somebody in leadership who reaches out for help or wisdom. Our culture lies.

i’m praying that the Lord sends you just the right source of encouragement and wisdom. Thank you, my friend, both for your encouragement to me, and for your service to the Kingdom.

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