By Joshua Langford
Coming out of high school, I was a McDonalds All-American and ranked in the top 20 basketball players in America. To put it in lay terms, my skills were considered top tier by many college coaches. I ended up choosing Michigan State University and by the time I was a junior in college I was playing my way into my dream of becoming a professional athlete in the NBA. But in 2019, like a deer caught in headlights, I was blinded by the pain of experiencing the unexpected through injury. It affected me so much so that it felt like my hope had been buried underground, never to see the sun again.
Prior to my injury, the finish line was right before me. I could see it, envision my next step to a professional career, but then the injury came. I was sidelined with no chance of finishing out that year. As hard as this was, I had made up my mind that I would be back stronger. Earlier in my career, I muscled my way through injury before and came back stronger, why wouldn’t this be the same song?
Well, to my surprise this wasn’t the same song. A new song began to play, and I got injured once more, literally the following year. Feeling plagued by the disease of injury, I went into an emotional cocoon and subconsciously I was determined to never come out.
Time went by for me to heal, and I got another shot. It was another opportunity to pursue my lifelong dream, but Covid decided to come into the world’s home without ringing the doorbell. Not only did Covid impact my come back season, but I felt like my body was fighting against me. That season of my return from injury #2, caused me to feel like injury #3 was coming. I was also contending with a number of other physical challenges. So much so, to the point to where I remember having a phone call with a mentor and asking him is something wrong with me. He encouraged and reminded me that nothing was wrong with me, but I still couldn’t understand why my body was doing this to me.
But I finished. I finished that season and did not give up. And although I finished outwardly, I was barely getting through the race emotionally. What I didn’t realize was that my emotional space had been impacted tremendously. Not only did I experience physical injury through that season of my life, but I also experienced emotional injury.
Within the same year that I finished my season, I also graduated. I walked the stage physically in 2021, but my emotions were still lagging, frozen in 2019. I was emotionally traumatized not just because of the pain that came from the injuries and physical challenges, but I was also traumatized from the pain that came from experiencing the unexpected. Most would think that a person of my age couldn’t go through emotional setbacks, but that isn’t the truth. The truth is that as humans whether young or old, one of the things we have in common is that the unexpected can create some turbulence in our soul and rock us emotionally. When we dream and those dreams aren’t fulfilled that can be discouraging. It was discouraging for me. That season of my life left a stake in my heart that created an emotional wound.
My dreams and plans got rocked. It was like Shaquille O’Neal blocked my dreams into the third row and said not today! I was feeling defeated and destitute emotionally, but what treated my wounded heart was the medicine of hope. This medicine was an ointment massaged into my heart by the people in my corner. The creator of the universe is recorded in the Book of Genesis saying that it is not good for man to be alone. Most would suggest that when he said this, he was referring to man being without a woman. On the contrary, we could potentially see in principle, that it is not good for a human to be without a human. Had I not had people in my corner in this season of my life, I am not sure where I would be. I believe wholeheartedly that our hope should be found solely in Jesus. I also believe that Jesus releases that hope through people. My family, my friends, and my community exuded so much hope through encouraging words and listening ears that it helped me see that my disappointment didn’t have to be my destination. They helped me get to the bridge of hope.
For anyone that may be on the receiving end of unexpected hardship and is going through the emotional upheaval that comes with it, I hope that you are encouraged to know that your journey back up the mountain can be accomplished with community. It’s through community that we rediscover the hope we’ve lost. God has created community to strengthen us when we are weak, lift us up when we are tired, and comfort us when we feel cold. It’s easy to try to fight through your heartache alone, but it is better to fight it with others.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, I hope my story helps you see that you could be the conduit that Jesus wants to release his hope through. In a world that is full of many challenges there are people searching for hope to be gently rubbed, like a salve, on the scars in their hearts.
Joshua Langford is an alumnus of Michigan State University. He was graced with the opportunity to gain a full athletic scholarship to play for the men’s basketball team. In 2020, he graduated from Michigan State with a bachelor’s degree from the School of Communication Arts and Sciences in Advertising Management with a minor in Religious Studies. He recently completed his master’s degree in Education with a concentration in Sports Coaching and Leadership. Currently, he is a Program Coordinator within the Multicultural Business Program at Michigan State University