Redeeming Presence

God saved my life.

And by that I don’t mean the common Christian testimony.

I mean, God literally saved my life.

I shouldn’t have made it, but I did.

I did.

I’ve been procrastinating this piece for a couple months now… Well… Since it happen. The elusive it, the accident. Honestly, I don’t believe I can give it justice. I am, but a humble human being. And yes, God has given me a knack for words. Nonetheless, how does one tell a tale as grand as this one? How can I make my audience feel the presence of God, as I did, on that terrible, wretched day? How can my words form coherent sentences that will not only get my point across, but will also transform lives, because God transformed mine? I honestly don’t know. So I’m going to let go of any of my agendas, and let God take the reins on this one.

First off, human as I am, I must admit, that I would give almost anything to take that day back. I hate it, every ounce of it. I hate that I lost my sense of security. I hate that I didn’t realize it was something I could lose. I hate that driving in the city makes me anxious, even the suburbs drive me nuts. Whoa, wait. It’s not your turn. Please, please, please don’t cut in front of me… (heart thumping a thousand miles an hour, as I drive my 2 miles home from work.) I hate that I have to drive to my townhouse this weekend, once again at the end of my job contract, with hopes of moving “home”. I hate that “home” now has to be encompassed in quotation marks, because I don’t feel safe driving there anymore. And, I hate that my eyes fill with salty tears as I type in those words. I hate that my anxiety peaks when I think of (what used to be the grand adventure of) driving the U-haul from Kentucky to home. (Thank God for trusty, and amazing, co-pilots!) (I’ll admit, I have a raging temptation to simply stay with my heart in those beloved hills.) But I know, I know, that northern Minnesota is where God wants me – I can’t tell you why (because I haven’t the faintest clue) but deep inside, I know this is where He wants me. And finally, my delightfully shallow side hates that my first encounter with some of northern Minnesota’s finest, officers and life-savers alike, was this terrible one. Because despite the fact that a couple were mighty-fine, I never want to see them again, because I never want to remember that moment when my world came crashing in.

But God, He has a plan. It’s much bigger than me, and my list. He is the reason I’m here to tell this tale. He is the reason I can form words in to coherent sentences. He is the reason, that even though I hate so many things about June 8, 2017, I won’t trade it for the world (I want to, but I won’t). He is the Reason.

Thursday, June 8, 2017 was a day that began poorly. Do you ever have “one of those days”? Well, it was indeed one of them. But worse, because I had this strange sense that it wouldn’t get better as the day went on. Waking up early, I enjoyed the benefits of completing half of Jillian Michael’s “Six Week, Six Pack Abs”. Unfortunately, as I was grabbing one of the weights, before my workout began, I dropped it down the stairs. Nothing says “Good morning!” than loud kerplunks at the crack of dawn. In that moment, the subtle acceptance of defeat crept its way into my being, and nestled itself in for the day.

It was my last day of work on my temp contract grading standardized ‘brief writes’ exams of third and fourth graders. For those of you that have participated in this trade, it was one of “those” days. For early June, it was supposed to be hot outside. I remember finally using the butterfly-patterned car-shade-things that I got in Kentucky, to shade my Honda from the heat of the blazing sun. Heading towards the building, I glanced back at “Horse” (my companion Honda) and realized the trunk was still open. Across the way, a co-worker mused my misplaced-mind situation as I breathed deep, exhaled defeated, and headed back to my car to slam the trunk shut. Then headed to my eternal doom.

At 10:04 am, I texted my mother (who had previously worked for the same company): “I’m going to fail my qualifying exam, so I might me home early.” I may have shed a tear or two while I typed those words in. It was terrible, but my cynical side mentioned the benefits of heading up North early: ‘Well if you fail, then you can leave early. Of course, you’ll embarrass yourself in front of everyone, being the only one dumb enough to fail, but who cares?! You’ll never see them again’. Yeah… that voice was wrong about many things. So I prayed, ‘’God you called me here. You gotta take over, cause apparently, I don’t know what the heck I’m doing…”

Though my training scores gave me a 50% (70% is needed to pass), I somehow managed to pass both qualification exams. Looking back, this is the first way God saved me that day. Unfortunately the day still worsened itself. My supervisor had to come, not once, but twice to show me examples of how I screwed up. Each time she walked up to my station and knelt beside me, my heart sunk. Some supervisors seem to give off an aura of ‘I don’t understand why you don’t get this…’ So perhaps so you can understand the slight misery that overwhelmed me as I continued to spend eight hours staring blankly at the computer screen. 

After surviving the work day, I still had a sense that my troubles weren’t over yet. I knew I was driving back up North, as I had an interview in Duluth the following day. The crazy thing is, I didn’t feel like I shouldn’t go. I didn’t feel God whisper, ‘Wait until morning’. I did hesitate as I packed my TV into my car, but besides that I felt peace and post-job-contract energy. So I packed up all my stuff, because I didn’t think I would be back (to the parental’s casa), and headed on my merry way.

Leaving the cities, I hit rush hour traffic, which I made it through quite smoothly. Halfway through my travels, around Pine City, I finally felt like I could breathe. Actually, for the first time since moving home I felt free to be me. I rocked out to old music and sang along at the top of my lungs. Stopping in Hinckley for a bathroom break, I purchased cookies for my bestie, and a “Live Love Lake” drink coozie for me. Then I headed home.

Traffic wasn’t terrible considering the summer’s guaranteed delays of construction. I found my way to my exit with no trouble. As I was exiting my song came on.

By my song, I mean this song. When I first heard it approximately a year prior, I thought, ‘Wow, what a battle tune.’ As I prayed about it, God gave me a beautiful image. And for a this, I must digress.

For the past year and a half, for sure, I had this unsettling fear of dying alone. I’ve always struggled with violent nightmares for as long as I can remember (like all the ways I could possibly die, including being invited to a party hosted by cannibals), and I had a few several years ago that had to do with being martyred. Alongside current events, and through the struggles of living alone, at that time, this became an actual worry. I prayed that no matter what: 1. I would glorify God in the moment that truly mattered, and 2. That He would make it clear that I wasn’t alone.

That said, when I first heard this song, a year ago, I fervently prayed if I were to ever be martyred or have some epic death in which I would need epic comfort and courage, that God would play this song in the background. As I prayed that, He gave me this image: During the fight song would be courage for the battle, during the early amazing grace portion He showed me images of people and experiences I would miss from my time on earth (all the good stuff), then as fight song and amazing grace mash together, I could envision myself finishing the race and seeing my dad, grandparents, friends who have gone before, and best of all, Jesus, welcoming me home, finally – me, running towards His open-armed embrace. It would feel like the overwhelming peace and joy that accompanies the exhaustion of being welcomed into the finish line of a half-marathon by a hundred of cheering fans. Finally.

Though this moment wasn’t my finally, it was something. It had been the first time I’d heard this song in months, and I re-thought my request to God, as I drove – only five minutes from home.

Less than 30 seconds later…

<<CRASH>>

My car was spinning, and smoking, then stopped. The old, burnt, dusty smell of the airbags shocked me into movement, as I realized I could move. Unbuckling my seat belt, I moved out of the vehicle, and hit the ground a few feet away. I heard the lady in an upstairs apartment ask if I was okay, but I wasn’t able to fathom words. My mind kept repeating, ‘I was just in an accident. I was just in an accident. Breathe. Breathe. Don’t faint. You can’t afford an ambulance…’  In the background, I heard my song playing, until a passerby had the right mind to turn my car off.

So many people stopped. There were two ladies, one to my right and one to my left. They both kept me calm, and claimed to have nursing experience. When I felt like I was going to pass out, they made sure my body was laid correctly, and one kept my glass-speckled bleeding hand elevated as I rested my head on the ground. Two others hovered close by, and several more on the street out front. They stayed with me until the officers and the EMT arrived. I don’t know who they are, but I will be forever grateful for their presence. And for God’s presence through them.

It was terrible. Like I mentioned, I still hate it. But I don’t hate the person who cut me off. I don’t blame them for my new-found anxieties and trauma. Do I wish they were paying more attention? Sure. But I don’t hate them, because they made a stupid mistake. We all make stupid mistakes. I’m just glad, for the most part, we are both okay.

Because I shouldn’t have been.

Two years ago, the SRS system went out on my car. For those of you who follow me, you’ll know that my lifestyle for the past six years has not had much wiggle-room for expensive vehicle fixes. Saving the world means risking the comforts of one’s own life. I didn’t realize it was literally. The SRS system is the Supplemental Restraint System. It has to do with the seat-belts and air bags. Basically it meant they were faulty. Which means that on June 8, 2017, they shouldn’t have worked.

But they did.

For the logical, and the list-lovers, the following is given proof of how God saved me:

(I really don’t know how to express it any better than this…)

  1. I had a sense that this day was going to be a terrible one – God sees all. God doesn’t cause bad things to happen, but He can prepare us for them, and afterwards, redeem them by showing His presence through it all.
  2. He played my song before, during, and after the accident – Proving that He was presently comforting me through my first physically traumatic experience.
  3. The SRS system, according to the dealership who wanted to charge me several hundred dollars to fix it, shouldn’t have worked – the airbags and seat-belts that weren’t supposed to, comforted and persevered my body so I could walk away almost okay. 
  4. I wouldn’t realize this until the next day, but my TV was smashed – the one warning sign I felt was when I hesitated about bringing it with me at that time.
  5. There were people present at the scene, always – I was never, once alone.
  6. And I felt peace – Amidst the chaos, spinning, fear, trauma, shock, and pain, I felt God’s peace, and His presence, and I know He was with me.

There were angels at that scene. I couldn’t see them (or maybe I could), but I know they were there. In fact, in my 24 hours of shock, I could only speak this beautiful testimony – that it could’ve been so much worse, and that I knew that God was with me. Though the how and why details of the accident were a bit fuzzy, I knew in the depths of my being that it wasn’t my fault. I remember being in my lane, conscious of driving the speed limit, and being glad I was so, close, to, home, (and yet so far.) Still I was so worried about the other driver. I made sure all the people that were praying for me, were praying for them also. I knew that this experience wouldn’t make my life easier, but I hoped that somehow, it would still bring glory to God.

So here’s the kicker. The next morning, as I awoke in the recliner. Chest-pressure to a shocking pain, made me not want to move, ever, so I perused Facebook. Christian writer, Ann Voskamp (look her up, she’s amazing!) posted the following:

Screen Shot 2017-08-02 at 12.08.18 AM

According to the timing, this post was added within 10 minutes of the my accident.

If that doesn’t scream <<REDEEMING PRESENCE>> I don’t know what does.

I don’t know about you… But I still get chills, especially as I read Ann’s finely crafted words, “God is working for you tonight. Heaven is holding conversations about you. Angels have been assigned to you. Be at peace.” coupled with “God is at work. He does not slumber. Christ intercedes. He does not fail. The Spirit comforts. He does not forsake. Be at rest. Be at peace. You’re name at the end of the day is BELOVED.”

BELOVED.

as my friend recently mentioned:

be-loved

God loved me that night, and all the days and nights that have followed, by reminding me that HE IS ALWAYS PRESENT WITH ME. And it’s this Presence that redeems the tragedies of our lives.

20170721_205158rrd

 “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20, ESV, underline – mine)

What is a life-altering tragedy that you have experienced? Did you see God present in that/those moment(s) with you? If not, looking back on it, can you see Him now? Did you doubt His Presence amongst the hardship?

Prayerfully seek God, and ask Him to redeem that experience for you. If you begin to doubt Him, remember that you are His beloved. And He is ALWAYS PRESENT WITH YOU.

Always. 

I used to not know  ^ this, but now I do.

 

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