I should have died twice already (at least).
The first time was over 20 years ago when our family car careened off Interstate 40 in Northern Arizona and rolled multiple times into a ditch. My dad had fallen asleep and we were doing 70 miles per hour when we hit a highway sign. The second time was 7 years ago this month when my little Nissan Altima flipped a Toyota Tundra (which at the time was being marketed ironically as the “unflippable truck.”). Both times, bystanders remarked, “somebody must have gotten seriously hurt or killed in that accident.” And yet, both times, everyone involved walked away on their own two feet. Both moments left me shaken, not too excited about riding or driving a car. And absolutely certain that I have a reason to be alive.
The first accident took place when I was almost 9, and it was the first moment in my life that showed me that God had a significant purpose for my life. The second accident was a touchpoint which confirmed this truth for me at age 24. Moments like these are surreal in the midst of the impact and they put a lot of things in perspective. It’s good to come back to them from time to time.
I don’t get to Ash Fork, Arizona much, but I do pass by the intersection of Central Avenue and Marshall Avenue in Uptown Phoenix on a daily basis. In fact, I drove through this spot a couple days ago and remembered this accident. Whenever I walk or run over that spot of asphalt and concrete, I think back to that day and all that has happened in between. Looking at these photos and reliving these memories, I’m reminded of several things.
God is the creator and sustainer of life. When I think of all that has to happen for me to make it through one day alive, I’m amazed. The planet’s rotation and tilt on its axis. Gravity. The mixture of oxygen and nitrogen in the air. Water. Food. Digestion. The complex work of my body’s 200+ bones, along with ligaments and muscles. Multiple systems in my body. The amazing miracle that eyesight is. It’s just unbelievable and points me back to the incredible source behind all life.
We forget life is not guaranteed. While we live with a fair sense of “control”, we’re all just one phone call or dumb decision by someone else away from massive change or the end of our days. We struggle to live with a sense of life’s fragility and urgency. We forget we aren’t promised tomorrow or even the end of today.
The duration of our lives may not be guaranteed but our lives do have purpose and meaning. Our lives gain ultimate meaning when they connect to God and His grand story. One of my friends used to often remind me, “God’s not in our story; we’re in His.” His story involves creation, brokenness, redemption and restoration. A story that not only involves people but everything we see and hear, everything we smell and feel. All of it shows the signs of brokenness, a sense of “this is not as it should be.” All of it will be made new, all of it will be redeemed, resurrected, restored. Making it through near-death experiences has a way of reframing the life we have left.
We’re given agency daily to make choices which impact many people. What we do with that agency is significant. Thinking about the impact of our choices is sobering. What we do with the time we have…all of that matters, not just now, but eternally. What we do in this time matters in a time that we cannot even comprehend. As a pastor, I’ve attended many funerals where I believe the person lying in the casket had little to no comprehension of the impact they had on the people who gathered in the room or who stood on the stage to speak. I’ve also attended services where the absence of hope in the room and the darkness of the grief were stifling.
Most of our regrets in life have to do with what we left unsaid, unresolved and undone. We now have data which tells us that our regrets change over time. Initially, we regret dumb decisions, mistakes and miscues. Over the long term, our regrets shift and what we regret most are the things we missed. Ultimately, we regret the opportunities we can never get back, the things we cannot make right and the words we no longer have a chance to say.
Looking back over these pictures today, I’m reminded that life is fragile and we shouldn’t wait for a time we aren’t promised to get. The old cliche says, “If you live everyday as if it’s your last, you’ll never have to worry if it truly is.” I’m going to do my best to put this into action today.
God, just so we’re clear, I don’t need another car accident to remind me!