The School of Hard Falls

The School of Hard Falls

Posted by Mark Mayberry on Nov. 12, 2021

On January 5th, 2017, my life literally turned upside down. In a moment, I went from being healthy and whole to a state of serious injury and brokenness. With one false step, I went from enjoying my surroundings to being imperiled by the same. 

I love running, logging over 1,600 miles during 2016. Visiting our family in Kentucky, I was off to another good start. Early on the morning of January fifth, 2017, I left the house while it was still dark, and for the next several hours, I thoroughly enjoyed myself, running at a leisurely pace, enjoying the beauty of being outdoors at the dawning of a new day. 

Broad Run Park, located a few miles south of Louisville, is a place of solitude and subtle beauty. Running trails meander through 600 acres of forested hillsides and broad bottom lands, beside meandering creeks, jagged cliffs, and cascading waterfalls. The lights of Louisville glowed to the north as fog lifted from the valleys and snow drifted down from above. 

Starting my run early so as to hopefully beat the snow, initially, I could see the slick places along the path and successfully avoid them. Eventually, snow began to cover the path, hiding the patches of black ice. I began running on the grass beside the track, especially on steep inclines, so as to maintain proper footing. For two-and-a-half hours, everything was fine, until I reached the 11.5 mark of a 13.1-mile run. Since the terrain was not so hilly, and the footing seemed good, I had begun running along the paved pathway. However, with one false step, everything changed. Hitting a hidden slick spot, my feet shot out from under me, and I landed hard on my back, resulting in seven fractured ribs and a punctured lung which partially collapsed with internal bleeding. 

Serenity gave way to danger, and pleasure gave way to pain. Because it was snowing, sensible people were at home. I was alone, sprawled on my back, in agonizing pain. Forcing myself to get up, I was able to walk the remaining distance back to my car. After running the heater for a while (It was twenty-eight degrees, and I was sweaty from a long run.), being unable to reach anyone on the phone, I slowly drove back to the house of John and Frani Smith, parents of our daughterin-law, Sarah. After being assisted up the steps and into the house, I sat (wrapped in blankets) shaking uncontrollably for 20 minutes, suffering from the combined effects of shock and becoming so chilled. 

My first inclination was to “tough it out.” However, after being examined by a nurse who lived across the street (whose name, incidentally, was also Mayberry, but of no kin), she ordered me to the emergency room. Nathan, our son, drove us to the hospital. When x-rays revealed the extent of my injuries, I was transferred by ambulance to the University of Louisville Hospital, a local trauma center, where I remained for eight days. 

Had my injury only involved fractured ribs, it would not have been so bad. However, the punctured, collapsed lung, coupled with internal bleeding, required the insertion of a drain tube in my chest. Unfortunately, it took much longer for the punctured lung to seal. Thus, I “enjoyed” an extended stay at “Club Med.” Days were long, and nights were longer. 

Throughout the ordeal, I kept thinking to myself, “Lord, what are you trying to teach me?” Over the course of time, the following thoughts crystalized in my mind. So, beyond the obvious (“Mark, don’t be stupid, and run alone on icy pathways!”), here are a few of the lessons learned from this experience. 

Life’s Fragility 

Life is fragile and fleeting. The wise man said, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth” (Prov. 27:1). 

The New Testament echoes and expands this same theme: 

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin (James 4:13-17). 

Life’s Uncertainty

In Ecclesiastes 9:10-12, Solomon offers counsel for wise living: approach each day with diligence, but recognize that life is filled with uncertainty— ”time and chance” overtake all men. 

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might; for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol where you are going. I again saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift and the battle is not to the warriors, and neither is bread to the wise nor wealth to the discerning nor favor to men of ability; for time and chance overtake them all. Moreover, man does not know his time: like fish caught in a treacherous net and birds trapped in a snare, so the sons of men are ensnared at an evil time when it suddenly falls on them” (Eccl. 9:10-12). 


When I slipped on the ice, and was in great pain, I just wanted to lay there. However, since I was sweaty and the temps were below freezing, I recognized, “I must get up.” Despite the intense pain, I forced myself to roll over from my back, and using my head as a pivot point, was able to push myself up from the ground, eventually stand up, and begin the long slow walk back to the safety and warmth of my vehicle (over 3.5 km away). 

Sometimes grim determination is required. Nearing the end of His earthly ministry (Luke 9:51-56), and on the brink of His betrayal, and ensuing passion, Jesus exhibited this quality (Luke 22:39-46). 

The KJV reads, “And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem…” (Luke 9:51). According to the NASB, “When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem….” 

Jesus manifested the same resolve in the Garden of Gethsemane. He prayed, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” Luke adds, “Being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground” (Luke 22:39-46). 


During my hospitalization, a good friend offered wise advice, saying, “Be a patient patient, Mark.” Because of the severity of my injuries (with seven broken ribs and a punctured lung), I did not recover as quickly as the doctors hoped. Yet, they kept saying, “The process will work if you give it time.” Sure enough, the bleeding eventually stopped and they could remove the drain tube from my chest. 

Solomon said, “The end of a matter is better than its beginning; patience of spirit is better than haughtiness of spirit” (Eccl. 7:8). Patience is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23), an essential quality for spiritual growth and faithfulness (Col. 1:9-12). 


Sometimes the solution to our problems lies outside ourselves. We may be able to respond in some measure, but ultimately we must depend upon others, and especially God, for assistance. I learned to trust in my doctors, nurses, and those who were dedicated to helping me recover. 

Writing to the Philippians from Roman imprisonment, and speaking of his future plans, Paul said, “Therefore I hope to send him (Timothy) immediately, as soon as I see how things go with me; and I trust in the Lord that I myself also will be coming shortly” (Phil. 2:23-24). Note the language: “I hope… I trust….” The Psalmist said, “But as for me, I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the lovingkindness of God forever and ever” (Ps. 52:8). 


I stand amazed at the outpouring of love from friends and family. Brethren here at Adoue Street have been so supportive. Disciples from the Hebron Lane congregation in Shepherdsville, KY (where Nathan and Sarah attend) visited me repeatedly while I was in the University of Louisville Hospital. Brethren around the world sent well-wishes and offered up prayers on my behalf. Thank you, Sherelyn. Thank you, Nathan and Sarah. Thank you, Ryan and Emilee. Thank you, John and Frani, for providing a home away from home. Thank you, Alan and Julie, for providing a place of rest and recovery as we journeyed home. Thank you, dear brethren, for your many expressions of concern and acts of charity. Such demonstrations of Christian compassion, by family, by life-long friends, by brethren near and far, by those well-known and otherwise unknown, is a testament to the power of the gospel. God is good. He helps us, directly and indirectly, as we face trials and tribulations. 


Life is fragile and uncertain. Let us, therefore, approach it with determination, patience, trust, and thankfulness. “You are my God, and I give thanks to n are my God, I extol You. Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.” (Ps. 118:28-29).