This one may be longer than usual, but I believe that it’s worth your time.
A few days ago, I was driving a Ford F-150 up a mountain’s dirt road with three passengers. I had driven that truck with passengers up that same road at the same comfortable speed many times this summer, but this time the outcome would be different. Long story short, through one of the turns halfway up the mountain, I lost control of the truck. We soon found ourselves sliding sideways towards the side of the road. I can still see the terror in the eyes of one of the passengers when I glanced in the rear-view.
All of a sudden, I felt a lurch. The truck began to flip over, and it slapped us upside-down into the ground, with an audible crunch as the windshield and windows shattered. When the dust had settled, I asked,
“Is everyone okay?” Only two of the three passengers responded. The third was silent. I called at the third,
“Eden! Say something!” Nothing.
I immediately unbuckled myself, unlocked the door, and pushed it open. I got out and saw Eden in the seat behind me. I screamed her name at her again. She was upside-down, suspended in a limp seated position by her seatbelt. One foot was poking out of the window while the other remained in the truck. Her eyes were closed and my heart dropped into an infinite pit as I assumed the worst: death or some sort of paralysis. I immediately thought of her parents and her siblings, knowing that my mistake had ripped something dear and precious away from them—from all of us. No matter the circumstances, I was the driver, so I was responsible. Out of desperation, I yelled her name at her one more time,
This time, her lips mumbled something unrecognizable. The pit in my stomach became slightly more bearable.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“I’m fine,” she softly replied before finally opening her eyes. I opened her door, unbuckled her, and helped her gently to the ground.
“Can you move and get up?” To my joy, she was slowly able to do so. On the other side of the truck, the two other passengers were able to crawl out of their shattered windows on their own. It probably only took a minute from flipping the truck to us all crawling out, but it was a minute that felt like eternity.
We all walked out of there with nothing more than a couple cuts from glass and some decent bumps to the head.
This summer, I’ve been working at a camp/retreat center that hosts 7-8 families at a time to teach them about God’s design for the family, marriage, parenting, careers, etc. Providentially, the families that were with us this week were driving up the same road, and were about 10-15 minutes behind. Eventually, they arrived at our crash scene, comforting us, praying with us, and helping us get things out of the truck. It was fortunate that we were still low enough on the mountain to have cell reception, so I called Matt—the director/teacher at the camp who is also Eden’s dad. I explained to him the situation, and shortly, he arrived from the lodge with another couple that was on retreat with us. It just so happened that the husband is an ER doctor, and the wife is an ER/ICU nurse. Matt got out of the car. Approaching me with arms wide open, he gave me a hug and said, “everything that we care about is safe.”
Our ER doctor and nurse examined each of us and concluded that we were all okay—save for some of us having minor concussion symptoms. They called the hospital and confirmed with them that no one needed to go there. Eventually, everyone headed back up to the lodge. I stayed back with two senior staff members who arrived in order to wait for law enforcement. Two officers arrived, and when the first shook my hand to introduce himself, I noticed three crosses tattooed above his thumb. By the time we were finished with all the paperwork, I was hungry and tired. The second officer gave me a final briefing on what would come next; however, as he spoke, I looked past him and could see the thickest and brightest rainbow I had ever seen coming down from the heavens and touching the earth below.
- I don’t deserve to be alive today. Any number of small tweaks to the sequence of events leading up to the accident could have resulted in a different result: human fatality. For one, it’s a miracle that we went off the road on the side that we did. If we went over the other side, we would’ve rolled down a steeper and more dangerous slope. In reality, there’s no human reason that I should be alive today. But if we were to consider that statement, we should realize that it is truthful and accurate every single day–not just the days when we have near-death incidents. I don’t deserve to be alive any day. If it weren’t for God’s prevenient grace which he bestows on us daily, we should all be dead because of our sin. God, however, let’s us exist in order that we would have the opportunity to know him and to love him.
- The God of the mountains is still the God of the valleys. This is a saying we extrapolate during the final moments of retreats at Sonrise. To me, it takes on a meaning that God is not with you only when life seems to be going well; he is with you when the enemy throws curveballs your way. I don’t imagine that God is sitting on some throne hurling trials our way, but that when tragedy strikes, he sits beside, weeping with us. He is ultimately sovereign over all, and he reminded me of this through the families who were trailing behind us, through the tattoos of the crosses on the Officer, and through the rainbow in the valley.
- Jehovah Jireh. This is a biblical name for God that means “The Lord will provide.” We saw it when God provided Abraham with a ram to sacrifice instead of Isaac. God provided what Abraham needed during a time of trial. I believe God provided during this truck accident: he shielded us from serious harm, and he provided emergency medical staff. It’s no accident that we had our ER doctor and nurse on retreat the week that this happened. God isn’t a being of coincidence, but one of omnipotent providence and sovereignty.
- A biblical community of believers is a beautiful thing. I’ve been working and living with a group of Christians who are all eager to individually pursue an ever-deepening relationship with the Lord. As we all strive towards Christ, we seek to emulate his example and the example of the early church seen in Acts 2. Though it’s not perfect, this community that I’m in is one of love, grace, patience, gentleness, authenticity, care, and many other wonderful qualities. As such, I knew I didn’t have to fear coming back to the lodge. I knew not to expect incriminating questions, reprimands, and guilt, but to expect hugs, prayer, consolation, and truth. Take what Matt said to me the moment he saw me. It wasn’t: “goodness Cruz, what have you done? My daughter was in that truck! How will we get a new vehicle? How could you be so careless?” It was simply: “all that we care about is safe.” Later on that evening Matt pulled me aside and said, “Nothing has changed. I love you and trust you the same.” This is what graciousness looks like. Walking with Christ alongside others is what we were designed for, and when you find yourself in a community such as this one, you realize it’s a foretaste of the new heaven and the new earth.
Now dear reader, I turn to you. In light of this narrative of terrifying events, my question is this: if you unexpectedly died shortly after reading this, would you be content and proud of the way you lived your life? If you stood before the Lord’s throne this very moment, could you confidently say you did all that you could’ve done to seek out his calling for your life? Not only that, but did you actually step into his calling for you? Christian, our Almighty God did not give us new life so that we would squander it by simply going to church on Sundays, and spending the rest of our lives pursuing our selfish desires. In his self-sacrificial love, he gave us a new life so we could know him, worship him, live with him, and take part in his redemption of his creation. Are you on board with this? Does it show?