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Learning to Lean on One Another: A Conversation With Chris and Emily Norton


In this segment from the Busted Halo Show, Father Dave sits down with husband-wife duo Chris and Emily Norton, the authors of “The Seven Longest Yards: Our Love Story of Pushing the Limits while Leaning on Each Other” to talk about how they’ve built a strong relationship that’s focused on serving others.

Chris Norton had a promising collegiate football career, but his dreams were crushed when six weeks into his freshman year of college, he suffered a spinal cord injury during a game, and doctors gave him a 3% chance of ever regaining movement below his neck. However, by relying on his faith and help from Emily, Chris was able to walk across the stage at graduation to receive his college diploma. 

Chris has translated his experience into a career as a motivational speaker and founder of the Chris Norton Foundation, which helps those afflicted with spinal cord injuries and neurological disorders receive the best access to recovery resources. Emily is also dedicated to service and has a passion for working with underprivileged youth. She’s founded an after-school program for girls and an inspirational talk show.

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Chris tells Father Dave that after sustaining his injury, he couldn’t accept that this was God’s plan for him, but he decided to focus on the present and work as hard as he could to achieve his goal of walking across the stage at graduation. Father Dave compares Chris’ determination and resolution to that of Jesus’ in Luke’s Gospel when Luke describes Jesus as “setting his face firm on Jerusalem.”

Emily met Chris a year after his injury, and she found herself attracted to his positivity and commitment to serving others. Chris explains that when he realized he wouldn’t be able to reach his goal of walking across the stage by himself, he chose to lean on Emily to help him receive his diploma. Emily would later walk with Chris down the aisle at their wedding. Father Dave points out that the “American narrative” tells us that we have to do everything by ourselves, but leaning on others is a natural part of being human. He then asks Emily if she ever had to lean on Chris, and she reveals that she lives with anxiety and depression, a part of herself that she initially his from others. But after going to church and learning to rely on God, she found the courage to start seeing a therapist.

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The couple doesn’t just serve one another, but they’ve opened their hearts to the five girls, ages 3 to 20, who they’ve adopted. Chris and Emily also work with children in the foster care system and recently fostered two additional girls. Emily credits learning to lean on other people and on God with allowing her to become a foster parent. Chris leaves listeners with a final message that he discovered from his experiences: “Life’s lowest moments can be the source of our greatest gifts.”