Aaron Henry

Aaron Henry
Safety

I was raised by my grandmother and have lived with her since I was in the third grade. My mom was living about 30 minutes away in a town notorious for a lot of things. While I was living with my mom, I was exposed to just about every drug imaginable at such a young age that I thought it was what every other kid was going through and what people were doing on a regular basis to generate money. That was all I knew.

It wasn’t until I moved in with my grandmother that I realized something in my life needed to change. My grades were horrible, and I couldn’t read. My grandma taught me how to read and write and signed me up for this local football team.

I immediately excelled. I can remember scoring my first touchdown and being one of the fastest kids out there. 

“I got to the point where I thought church was a waste of time” 

In the third grade, my grandma also introduced me to Christ, and that’s when I accepted Him. But little did I know that when you accept Christ there is supposed to be a true, genuine relationship with Him. That wasn’t something I had. I was just saying the words and doing what my grandmother taught me to do.

We were going to church about every single day. I got to the point where I thought church was a waste of time. I thought church was for old people. I thought, “If this is what it takes to go to heaven, I’d rather be in hell.” 

 “I was still known as that notorious guy”

But I moved past that, and I came to realize I truly hadn’t accepted Christ because I was still doing some of the same things I was doing when I lived with my mom. I was still known as that notorious guy who had a tremendous athletic ability, but who was doing his own thing.

One night after one of my high school varsity games, I was sitting in the living room about 1 o’clock in the morning and my grandparents were in their room sleeping. I turned off the TV and headed back to my room. As I passed my grandparents’ room I heard this pastor yelling (on the TV), “Nothing just happens.” He kept saying, “Nothing just happens, nothing just happens.” I stopped and went into the room and sat on the floor while my grandparents were asleep. The pastor said, “No matter what you are going through in this life, nothing just happens; there’s a reason you are going through that. You may not know the reason why at the time, but God is shaping and molding you into what He wants you to be.” 

 “I thought about one of my best friends being shot in the head” 

The only thing I could think about was 1) my father was incarcerated, and I felt like he was a void in my life. And 2) I was exposed to all those drugs as a young man and visited my mom on weekends, not really having her in my life like I wanted. I felt hurt and mad, and I thought about one of my best friends being shot in the head. A whole bunch of emotions were running over me, and I realized that although I went through all those things and it was hard, there’s a reason why I’m here today and there’s a reason why God was doing those things in my life. I didn’t understand them but I came to realize that nothing just happens, and God had an ultimate plan for me.

That same night I accepted Christ, I truly dedicated my life to Him. People think that once you accept Christ, things are supposed to be smooth and everything is going to go your way. For me it didn’t happen like that. I accepted Christ and that’s when the turmoil really started to come. 

 “So fast-forward…I’m at Wisconsin on a full scholarship”

So fast-forward…I’m at the University of Wisconsin on a full athletic scholarship. I had a tremendous freshman season, I was a freshman All-American. I’m getting ready for a bowl game, and I jump and tear my ACL. For me, football was always kind of a mediator between my faith and my family. It was my safe haven, because, at the end of the day, I could go there and whenever school wasn’t going right, whenever my grandma and I didn’t see eye to eye, or whenever I was having trouble with my mom, I could always take it out on the football field. So when I tore my ACL, I was devastated by it.

“I had four knee surgeries in a two and a half year span!” 

That was the end of my first surgery. Coming back from that I was supposed to be a top corner the next year. But while doing rehab, I heard something pop in my knee again, and this time it was my medial meniscus. I said, “Lord, I’m living right for you, I’m doing all this for You.” I didn’t understand that this was the true testing of my faith and that the Lord was doing something in my life. All I knew was if things didn’t go well, I still had football to fall back on. 

That was the second surgery. I bounced back from that, and I was getting ready again for the same season because that injury was in the summer, and I heard another pop. This time it was my lateral meniscus. And I’m devastated again. 

So I came back from that (third surgery), and at the end of my junior year during spring ball, I hear another pop. It is the medial meniscus again! 

“How do you still keep your faith after going through all that?” 

So, I had four knee surgeries in a two and a half year span! People started asking me, “How do you still keep your faith after going through all that?” 

I feel that each and every one of us has a God-hole in our hearts, and we try to fill it with all these things, whether it’s drugs, sex, or our sport. But the only person who can consume that space is God. And we try to fill it with all of these things and it’s great at the time, but eventually, it’s going to be empty again, and we are always going to want more. But I came to the realization that only God could fill that void. 

Believing in God and having faith in God are truly two different things because the Bible says even the demons believe in Him. But when you have faith in Him, no matter what the situation or circumstances, you’re trusting your life to Him and expecting Him to do something. God is undefeated.

“It definitely made my faith stronger” 

Going through all those things really shaped and molded me into the person I am today. It definitely made my faith that much stronger.

When I’m playing football, I try to play as if God is the only one watching. He is my greatest motivation. When I make a play, I take a few seconds to acknowledge before others that I am thankful to God for the ability and opportunity to play a sport I love. I’m not trying to draw attention to myself, but to turn the attention I am already getting toward God. And when I miss a play, I need to remember my identity is not in football and that helps me focus on the next play.

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