About a week and a half ago, I was in a car accident. Someone ran a red light and smashed into the passenger side of my car. There's something about a car accident that feels like a microcosm of life, and I've been thinking about several lessons I'm learning from it. In no particular order, here they are:
1. A sudden change of direction can cause hidden pain. Get help. A side impact accordions the spine in crazy ways. I have only one bruise but will have weeks of chiropractic care. It is not something that would just go away without the help and advice of someone else. Yet, what we recognize physically, we often don't recognize emotionally. When life takes a sudden change of direction, like a death or illness or job change, there may be inner damage and trauma not immediately apparent. If you are one who bounces back quickly, and "can handle it," push yourself to allow others in. There may be things under the surface that you can't yet see, that someone else could help you work through.
2. Feelings are not one-dimensional. Life is often terrible and wonderful at the same time. My car was totaled, that sucks. I was out of town when it happened, which was a pain. My body is still sore, and that is annoying... But also... I was the only one in the car, which means no one was on the passenger side, thank God. I walked away with relatively minor injuries- I didn't even have head trauma, and that is amazing. The other guy owned his responsibility in the crash, so it didn't become a he said-she said argument, which is so helpful. I am hurt and grateful, frustrated and relieved, sore and happy, all at once.
3. Be careful with your theology in times of trouble. I have been a pastor for years, and to be honest, I don't know how to describe God's role in this. Because here's what I know: I was lucky and many others are not. To say that "God protected me" can feel good, but what about my friends who weren't protected? Who were hurt badly or had a loved one die in a car accident? Did God not protect them? That feels gross to me. Especially when victims are kids. The most I want to say is that God was with me then and God is with me now. In the midst of the trauma and pain, joy and gratefulness, God is there. God is feeling with me and walking beside me through it all.
4. People are awesome. So many people's first responses were those of concern and practical care. Do you need to borrow a car? Do you need any help with the kids? How are you feeling? Is there anything I can do? There are many things around us and in the news that can cause us to question the goodness of humanity. Watching how people respond in times of crisis (though honestly, this wasn't even a crisis, just trouble and inconvenience) reminds you how awesome and giving people can be.
5. One change leads to another. Be prepared for the process. Sometimes we think of decisions as existing in one moment of time. We forget how one change can begin a process that can go on for quite awhile. One car accident meant figuring out what to drive home, embarking on a search for a new vehicle, making decisions about our budget, scheduling appointments with a chiropractor, reorganizing the schedule to fit the aforementioned test-driving and appointments into it... And all these changes led to pushing and pulling on other parts of our lives. We often don't know the consequences of a decision until after we've made it. Don't be surprised if things take more time or more work than you thought they would. Process is normal.
6. It is okay to rest. This one might not be difficult for you, but it is difficult for me. I want to hang out with people. I want to get stuff done around the house. I want to write. I want to do fun stuff with and for my kids. I want to study Scripture for future socratic gatherings. I want to do a lot of things. And I feel like since I walked away with minor injuries, I still should be able to do them. I wrote a post awhile back about comparison being the thief of healing and that's true of me right now. I think about that person whose injuries were worse and that person who is so strong, and I think "why should I need a nap?" But I do. If I listen to my body, I do. And I can. And it is good for me to do so.
7. Take your time. But eventually, get back in the car. Some people take awhile after an accident before they are able to drive again. And that's okay. But eventually, life keeps moving forward and you have to make the choice to move with it. It's true that anything can happen, but if you stay in fear of that, you miss out on too much. In the last week, I've explored a museum with my kids, dreamed about future possibilities, and enjoyed great conversation with friends, because I got back in the car. Let change awake you to the possibilities of life, instead of trapping you in the fear of death.
I'm sure there are more lessons I could list, but that feels like enough, at least for now....
Wherever life finds you this week, I pray that you can experience and learn from the joy and sorrow of it all.