Sometimes God makes my life boring
Last Thursday, on my way home from work, my car’s front right tire exploded while I was driving at 100km/h on the Western Ring Road Freeway.
What happened next was intense and traumatic and I’m lucky to be alive…
As you can imagine, without one of my front tires I could barely keep control of my car. I could hear the loud flap of the torn up rubber and the scrape of the metal rim as my little Mazda 2 veered violently to the right, almost going into the lane next to me. I was in the middle lane of the freeway and the traffic was very busy with lots of trucks and other commuters on every side.
As I was travelling at 100km/h I knew I had to slow down, but the car behind mustn’t have been paying attention, because as I steadily applied the break they kept zooming ahead and they knocked the back of me. It was a fairly violent nudge and it forced my car off to the right, where I scraped into the side of the van in the next lane. It all happened very fast after that.
The van veered off to try to avoid me and crashed into the short concrete wall separating the freeway, this cause a pile up of cars behind it as they all tried to screech to a holt. Meanwhile, the car behind me still hadn’t stopped and pushed my car into a spin. I was terrified and I can remember screaming and thinking that I was truly going to die and how horrible that would be. Several other cars then plowed into mine as I spun, pushing me further across the freeway and into the lane of an oncoming truck. The last thing I heard was the deafening hiss of the truck’s airbreaks as the driver desperately tried to avoid me.
Unfortunately, it was going too fast. The truck rammed into the nose of my small hatchback causing me to flip several times. My airbags went off and the the next few moments were a chaotic mess of broken glass and crunching metal and being tossed around like a rag doll, all the while knowing for sure that at the unjust age of 38, the great fearful blackness of death was about to swallow me at any second.
It is only by the grace of God’s miraculous hand that I escaped death and am hear to tell you the tale. My car was totaled, I have a few broken bones, but after a couple of nights in hospital it looks like I will pull through. I may not walk for a few months and they had to amputate my right arm, but this experience has left me more appreciative of life and more confident that God can see me through anything…
Now that would have been an exciting near-death experience story for me to be able to tell you, except for the fact that… none of that actually happened.
Well, the first sentence is true. My tire did explode while I was driving at 100km/h on the freeway last Thursday, but God had orchestrated things so it turned out a little differently.
Firstly, God ensured that when my tire blew, I was in the left most lane so it was fairly easy for me to quickly turn into the emergency lane and out of harms way. God also probably helped the car stabilize in that process as I didn’t find it too hard to control even though I was driving on the metal rim and travelling at a high speed. God made sure that there were no cars right behind me as well, so slowing down didn’t cause any problems.
After that, it was pretty boring really. I called Cat and she called her brother Phil, who’s handy with all things practical (unlike me, with my uncalloused graphic designer hands). God had made sure Phil was available and, in a longer term sense, had shaped Phil’s godly character into an “always willing to help when needed” sort of dude. Phil dropped whatever he was doing and found me on the freeway. He quickly replaced the tire with my spare, using his cool drill attachments to undo the nuts on the wheel, making me feel like I was in the company of a Formula 1 pit-crew.
After the tire was replaced, I jumped back in the car and guess what? The battery was flat! Crazy huh? We contemplated getting some roadside service, but it was going to cost us a bit so we thought we’d first try to give the car a push start to see it that could start the engine that way. By God’s kindness, it did, and both Phil & I were able to get to get on our way and attend the ministry meeting at our church that we had on that night. In about one hour exactly, I had gone from an exploding tire to on my merry way. I guess God wanted me at that meeting. Or maybe he wanted Cat there, as if I had really been in a major crash, I doubt she would have attended the meeting either.
When my tire exploded, I was naturally surprised and a little anxious as I got out of traffic, but I was never terrified like I described in my exciting made up story. I didn’t scream thinking that I was truly going to die and how horrible that would be. In fact, I am very much at peace about dying. To be honest, I look forward to the joy of seeing Christ face to face. Now, I don’t look forward to the actual process of dying and I’m sure if that horrible crash had actually happened I might have been screaming as I awaited the painful end. But I wouldn’t be thinking “that at the unjust age of 38, the great fearful blackness of death was about to swallow me at any second.” It wouldn’t be unjust for me to die at 38 or 68 or 18 or even 8 months (the age of my daughter). The bible says the God is the one who “gives everyone life and breath and everything else” (Acts 17:25). This life I live is a gift from God. I do not own it. I do not have rights over it. It is God’s and he will take it back when he pleases.
And when he does, even if I’m scared of the actual thing that will kill me – be it cancer, a heart attack or a freeway pile-up – I hope I can remember the apostle Paul’s wonderful words in Philippians 1:20-23…
“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.”
In fact, in that moment, just after the exploding tire as I waited for Phil to arrive, I posted on Facebook a few photos of my tire along with this status update: “One of my tires exploded while driving on the freeway. Ah, to live is Christ…”
God protected me last Thursday. The fact that my actual story is not as dramatic and exciting as the one I made up is actually a miracle. My boring true story is a sign of God’s kindness and sovereignty and ability to control events like tires and freeway lanes and everything else.
Now, I don’t believe in a prosperity gospel that thinks that God is only looking after me when good things happen (you can see my thoughts on God’s sovereignty in suffering here). I have had my share of pain and tragedy, and yet I can still say with confidence that God is kind and loving and in control. As the bible says, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). All things means all things. God will look after those in Christ through all things like sickness, divorce, near-death experiences and even death itself.
I don’t expect God to provide me a life of comfort, free from pain or strife. In fact, I expect drama and tragedy and suffering. Though quite often (and probably a lot more than I know), for his own mysterious purposes, even when I might like to have an exciting story to tell… sometimes God makes my life boring.