7 Lessons from a Car Accident

7 lessons from a car accident

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. 

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Giving Up... The Finish Line

Lent Series Button I was so frustrated.

I couldn’t believe it happened again. This week. The week my therapist and I ended our sessions (for now) because of how much better I’ve been doing. This week, when Monday my feet felt so firmly planted in the “after” of this whole journey of knowing my identity and learning to be.

But after Monday, Tuesday came.

I sat in a meeting in which a few little things added up to make me feel out of place. Then that out of place feeling grew to an angsty feeling, and I found myself going into that night questioning and uncertain about my role, my calling, and my value in this great big beautiful Kingdom of God.

I thought I was past all that.

{Hey friends and family. Guess what? I got a tattoo! Sorry if this is the first you are hearing about it…}

Seriously. I’ve been writing about all this stuff I’ve given up, and I’ve really been doing it. I’ve told people about how I feel like such a different person than I was six months ago. I mean, last week I got a tattoo celebrating this sense of freedom and new identity in Christ.

Among the many questions swirling through my mind and emotions was this one: how did I end up back here so quickly?

I was quick to assume that falling one step back meant I had regressed all the way to the beginning. It felt that way because, even though I wouldn’t have admitted this out loud, I thought I was done. I thought I had crossed some imaginary finish line.

If you think you’ve finished a race, any fall backwards can make you feel like a failure.

The problem is not the back step; it’s the feeling there's a finish line.

The word “journey” becomes an overused metaphor in the Christian life for a reason. Journeys meander. They are not as much about getting from point A to point B as they are about experiencing what comes to you along the way.

I didn’t really go back to the beginning. I can tell the feelings of angst that arose did not rock me as deeply as they once did. This back step was not a failure, but another point on the journey.

In the Old Testament story of Hannah in 1 Samuel 1, she is distraught by her childless condition. She wrestles and prays and breaks some rules on her journey of surrender to God’s will.

When Hannah finally shares her heart with Eli, our English Bibles translate his reply as, “Go in peace.” But his words could also, and perhaps more accurately, be translated, “Walk towards wholeness.”

Walk towards wholeness.

It’s not about arriving. Or snapping our fingers and getting it all figured out. Or reaching a conclusion and being done. We can’t actually reach that kind of decisive end, as hard as we might strive or wish or struggle to get there.

All we can do is walk towards wholeness on the path of God’s grace.


Giving Up… is a Lenten Series asking a question: What if we gave up more than external things for Lent? It’s not a belief that we can get rid of our baggage as easily as we can write a blog post. But, it is a belief that admitting those things that keep us from deeper intimacy with Christ is a good start. {Please note, this isn’t in any way meant to be a critique of those giving up something external. Often that is connected to the internal in a powerful way. In my case, though, I realized that the external sacrifice was hindering me from dealing with what was going on below the surface.}

A Woman Should Learn

I wonder if we’ve missed the lesson.  

In all the arguments and pontifications about how to interpret 1 Timothy 2, about what is really the role of women in the world, I wonder if we’ve missed something hidden in its message that is universally applicable to all.

 

I wonder if we should take to heart that anyone who gets onto a platform to talk, write, or argue about God, whether woman, man, or child, first

 

“should learn in quietness and full submission.” – 1 Timothy 2:11

 

In my interpretation of this verse and the ones to follow, I believe it is quite important that the words “women should learn” are phrased in an imperative, while the words about how he "does not permit a woman to teach” in the following verse are not. (Though, 1 Timothy 2 doesn’t render that way in English translations.) If you are interested in a fuller discussion of an interpretation of 1 Timothy 2 that would support women in leadership and teaching, this paper from Christians for Biblical Equality is a good read.

 

But regardless of your view on women in leadership, in the midst of all the debates, isn’t there a truth imbedded here that we have missed?

 

teacher learnerI wonder if Paul is reminding us that a teacher must first be a learner, sitting in a posture of quietness and full submission to the God he or she is talking about.

 

Too many of us, myself included, have a habit of being loud before we are quiet. We share with others before we listen to God.

 

The other habit is to only teach on something once we have figured it out. We share about our destination instead of our journey. “I used to struggle with such and such, but now, with God’s help, I have found a better way.”

 

What if more preachers and teachers and writers and debaters took the posture of a learner first, sitting in quietness and full submission to God? How would that change the tone of Christianity today?

 

We cannot judge for sure whether that is going on with each individual. And we also can’t assume that everyone will be able to get it right all the time. But what if we did more to hold one another accountable to that ideal?

 

I had the opportunity to preach at all the weekend services of my church this past weekend. It was a joy and a blessing. And though some may view it as a betrayal of 1 Timothy 2:12, I hope it was a living out of 1 Timothy 2:11.

 

I hope I was a learner first.

 

In some ways, I know I was. I find such joy in teaching when I feel it is a lesson I am learning out loud. When I walk away knowing the words coming out of my mouth were just as much God’s message to me as they were His message to anyone else.

 

In other ways, I know I wasn’t. That came out in some convicting but wonderful feedback from someone on my team. In my message, I talked about a learning experience during the summer of 1999. That’s 14 years ago, people. {Crazy!} Here’s what my team member had to say about that

 

I know it might be hard, but when stories can be more recent, it shows that the speaker is willing to STILL be working on themselves. Right? When possible, to show growth from the past two weeks might be a weightier call to action. Because we’re talking to people about how they are living their life today (and we’re supposing they need to change), but we use examples for ourselves from years ago.”

 

I LOVE that challenge. And I plan to take it to heart the next time I speak. How powerful would it be if more preachers had the courage to say out loud what they are currently learning.

 

I wonder if 1 Timothy 2:11 could make better teachers out of all of us.

 

If you would like to listen to my message from the weekend, you can find it here. Look for the “Regroup” series, and the message titled, “ReGroup: Jesus’ Community” by Stephanie Spencer. And, if it’s not clear on the audio, when I tell that story from 1999, and talk about the bossy girl who was controlling and hard to love, I was raising my hand and pointing to myself. :)