The incessant beeping confused me at first. The last thing I remembered doing was cashing my check in the bank, and stopping by the Bubble© machine on the way out to waste a quarter on some gum. It was December 20, 2002. I was 16 years old, and had one of my first ‘big checks’ to cash on my way to buy some Christmas presents for my family. The first responder later told me that she sternly warned me not to dare bite her fingers when she reached in to pull the gum out of my mouth. I don’t remember any of that. My destination had been Walmart, but now I had woken up in a neck brace at a hospital in Little Rock and the beeping was starting to go from confusing to annoying. What was going on? Where was my brother? Could somebody turn this alarm off?
My parents were there, and friends and other family were in and out over the next few days. On Christmas Day, my future wife came to see me, who at that time was just a friend (despite an 8th grade English teacher correctly predicting we’d get married one day).
The details aren’t fully clear, but the gist is that I lost control of my 4-speed 1986 Dodge Ram and crashed headlong into the rocky face of a ‘mountain’ (in Arkansas we don’t really have mountains). We weren’t wearing our seatbelts, so my head smashed the steering wheel and I was immediately ejected through the windshield into the rocks. The truck rolled a few times and then threw my brother out onto the asphalt. I still don’t remember any of this, but this is what has been pieced together based on the witnesses and evidence available. A first responder ‘coincidently’ happened to be just a couple cars behind us and immediately resuscitated me as we waited for the helicopter to fly me to Little Rock as quickly as possible.
***Spoiler Alert***, I made it. And thankfully, so did my brother. I had to wear a neck brace for a few weeks but somehow came out of that ordeal with only a few scars, minor vertebrae fractures, a pinhead-sized piece of metal placed in my sinus cavity above my right eye, and some torn ligaments in my back. I feel the effects of this wreck periodically if I sit funny for too long, but other than that, it’s only a memory (besides the scars of course).
I share this story not because I made a trip to heaven or anything like that. Nor, does it even have a direct bearing on how I would eventually become a Reformed Baptist. I share it because it is a testimony of God’s grace in my life. As I look at my wife of 12 years and our 5 children, I think about the amazing provision of God on that day to spare my life, otherwise, you wouldn’t even be reading this.
As I look back on the event I see the mysterious providence of God working in ways that I still can’t entirely fathom, but that brings an even sweeter comfort to me in 2018 than it did back in 2002. I was a Believer then, but oh how little I knew of the God who works all things according to the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11).
You see, I grew up in a moral home, but not a Christian home (thankfully my parents were saved and baptized in 2015!). I committed my life to Christ as a 10-year-old boy at a church camp in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. Over the next few years, I tried to understand what all the Christian life really entailed, but a lack of commitment to the local church and a lack of someone to teach me kept me more immature than I should have been.
Then, when I was 15, I had an excellent youth pastor, and I learned the importance of Baptism. I was baptized in 2001, joined a local church, and really began to grow as a Believer. My youth pastor left to finish seminary, and I went through another stage of sin and immaturity.
The wreck in 2002 was a gracious wakeup call from God about the brevity of life and the importance of following Him. Just two weeks before my wreck, a classmate had died in another automobile accident. I should have died too, but God spared me. I actually began co-leading the youth group with some other teens and felt that the Lord might use me in vocational ministry one day. I wasn’t where I needed to be with understanding the Bible, but I can look back now and see that God was working out circumstances in my life to bring me exactly where He wanted me to be.
I’ll talk more about how that played out in the next post…
I’ll end this post with a praise to God for His grace. There’s no way I should be writing this post, but God… There’s no way I shouldn’t be in hell right now, oh but grace! How often I still fail to recognize God’s providential workings in my life in mountaintops and valleys, but He continues to show His grace.
Go to Part 2.