Fourteen years ago next month, Interstate 10 tried to kill me.
It had an accomplice: my own stupidity.
Fortunately, God is greater than even that. He decided he wasn’t finished with my earthly sojourn, and this week, I stand in gratitude of what he did that day. For it could only have been him.
Many of us speak of our first car with fondness. I am foremost among them. It was the day after Christmas, 2002. I was driving south in my Dodge Intrepid from Luke Air Force Base in Phoenix, where I was stationed, to visit my grandfather in Tucson. A nap attack arrived – I swear it’s always around 1:35pm – and being an inexperienced driver, I figured I could fight through the fatigue and keep driving. Older and wiser now, I give you this advice for such a situation: for Pete’s sake, pull over and nap. It only takes twenty minutes to reset your body.
That day, somewhere north of Casa Grande, I nodded off. The freeway curved to the right; I did not. The rumble strips on the road’s left side woke me up and I swerved hard right to correct – too hard. The back end of my Intrepid swung out left and took the rest with it. I remember only skidding into the median thinking “This is like a really loud, really fast, really big bike accident multiplied by ten.” It remains the most terrifying 1.5 seconds of my life’s memory.
I don’t remember hitting the median. The next thing I remember was lying face up on the ground, outside my car, blood streaming down my face as I stared up at the sky, scared, wondering what had happened.
By God’s grace, the driver behind me on the freeway that day was a fellow serviceman – a tech sergeant from my very base’s Security Forces outfit. He was the one who pulled me, unconscious, out of my car. Later, from him through my supervisor on base, I was able to hear the account of what happened.
My car rolled through the median seven or eight times at 75 MPH, coming to rest upside down in the oncoming lane of the freeway, and a semi trailer missed me by mere feet. I was airlifted to Maricopa County Hospital.
And thanks to this year’s Thanksgiving get-together, I found the photos.
Notice how the cabin is deformed right where the driver’s head usually goes.
Yep. I was dumb.
But thankfully, not dumb enough to forgo my seatbelt.
Here’s the wild thing: I was discharged from Maricopa the same day and driven back to base with only a very mild concussion. I was back at dorm, washing the blood out of my hair, that very evening. Not even whiplash the next day. Fourteen years later, a tiny chunk out of my nose is all the evidence my body bears of the accident.
I don’t know about Biblical support for the idea of guardian angels, but I do know this: God answers prayer. Maybe we just need to expand our definition of answers. We don’t often think of the invention of the seatbelt, or the rigorous construction and testing of our cars, as an answer to millions of prayers for a “hedge of protection” around loved ones. But I’d make the argument.
It’s also worth noting that those seatbelts are readily available to anyone, and some of us are not taking advantage.
That should be sobering. How many divine helping hands are being offered in this world and not taken? How much wisdom has already been provided (like “don’t drive sleepy”) that could keep tragedy at bay in the first place? Just what right do we really have to criticize God for “not coming through”? And how much worse could it actually be?
Now my longtime friends know why my personal email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. It sure ain’t talking about an adventurous cooling device.
I stand in gratitude to my first car, to the quick action of the sergeant who pulled me out (I know he received an Air Force award for helping me, but for the life of me I have not been able to find him since), and mostly to God.
“He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth.” Daniel 6:27