In 2005, I was involved in a terrible motorcycle accident. For a month or so, I hung in the balance between life and death, my punctured lungs succumbing to pneumonia and ARDS, in and out of comas, every rib broken, liver pierced, heart bruised, and on and on. No one was convinced I would live, or could live.
But I did. God was clearly involved in my survival, and several months after entering the hospital dying, I walked out alive.
When I returned to my life, though, I found rising deep inside of me a
genuine anger. Yes, my body had begun to mend, but I hurt badly all over, my ex-husband had not paid any of our bills for months or taken very good care of our kids, and I found myself weak and overwhelmed with the task of putting all of our lives back on track.
Up until that point in my life, I had been careful to direct any anger about things in my life anywhere but in God’s direction. And there was a lot of anger to direct. I left my childhood home and family enraged, and my first few years of adulthood, while on the surface seemingly normal and calm, concealed beneath a churning ocean of anger, disappointment, betrayal, and sadness.
I believe that we have a better ability to ignore the wounds of our childhoods when we are young and strong, both in body and in mind. But after my motorcycle accident, with my mind still reeling from the shock of what had happened to me and my body still groaning beneath the pain, I found that I was unable to ignore certain emotions that were threatening to swamp me, and frankly, my dark thoughts were frightening me.
Chef has always been super popular with people who knew him. Me, not so much. It isn’t that people didn’t like me. It was just that I don’t collect large numbers of people to invite them into my life on an intimate level. I have always been careful about who I consider a friend, and I’m too introspective to have much energy left over to give acquaintances. And whenever I don’t feel well, or I’m sad, or stressed, or whatever else, I tend to withdraw and isolate a bit. I can’t manage social niceties while dealing with whatever it is I’m dealing with. It just isn’t how I function.
So, you can imagine how much I enjoyed parades of biker clubs coming to visit me in the hospital, along with the other supporting cast of Chef’s life. Plus, he went on television and spoke about motorcycle safety laws and held a rally in honor of those of us who had been hurt in this accident. I have memory after memory of waking up in a fuzzy state with faces looking down at me in pity.
When I got home, my three teenagers were pissed off too. Chef had farmed them all out to different biker households, and as is our family tradition, it would seem, they had all started smoking weed to cope. For 3 months, they basically did whatever they wanted to do, smoked a bunch of crap, and had to wait patiently to see if their mother was going to die.
So, yeah. I came home pissed at the world. Chef has never been a Christian much more than in words, but I had tried hard to make him understand why I was upset. It did no good to accuse him of anything. He thought his wife was going to die, and who knows how well or how badly we will handle that kind of stress until we have to? I couldn’t really direct my anger at the person who caused the accident either, because he’d been a fifteen year old kid, the same age as my own son, and with about the same maturity level.
When it was all stripped away, it came down to me and God. And for a person like me, that is a very scary place to find oneself. It could not be ignored anymore. I was upset with God.
Chef reached out to the most religious person he knew, hoping to find some help for me. I don’t remember exactly how he knew him. He wasn’t part of our biker community, but I don’t think they worked together either. But this man had purchased a prayer cloth from a television evangelist who had prayed over it and sent it to him for me.
(Clearly, my ex never understood me much, even after twenty years.)
I was touched by the kindness of this man, but disgusted by television preachers who peddle in this nonsense. I accepted it politely, pressed it into a scrapbook, and plunged into the unhappy ocean of being disappointed in God. So, of course, Chef invited this man to come council me a few months after I went home.
I listened for hours as this well-meaning man gave me all the reasons why I shouldn’t feel the way I was feeling. What really stood out among his various mis-teachings was his belief that we were on the same footing as Jesus Christ, demi-gods, if you will. He lectured me in the Word of Faith doctrine that has been corrupting our churches for decades now, and he sought to build me up with promises that if I could summon up enough faith, God would have no choice but to give me anything my heart desired.
As he was talking, the Holy Spirit seemed to wake up inside of me. I was polite to him, all the while disputing his beliefs. And finally, it came down to this — “Why do you believe what you believe, and what in you makes you want to believe what you hear?”
What are you looking for in a god?
It is a sad reality these days that people believe what they hear others tell them, but put little or no effort into finding out the truth about the Lord by looking for themselves. Even worse, they lack the self-awareness needed to understand why they are looking for certain versions of God.
When the man left, and for the first time since the accident, I went to my bible and started looking for the truth. The real truth.
It took no time for me to find it. I was angry at God for so much about this accident. Forget the physical pain. I’m no wimp. I can handle pain with the best of them. It wasn’t the myriads of visitors being directed into my hospital room by a husband who should have known by now how I hated people around when I don’t feel well, or the sudden drug problem by not one, but all three, of my strong-willed, not-easily-managed-on-their-best-days teenagers, or the stacks and stacks of threatening bill collection letters. No. It went further than that. Deeper.
I won’t go into the harsher depths of my crisis of faith back then. This is already a really long post. But I will tell you His simple answer:
“One of you will say to me: ‘Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?’ But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?”
I know it sounds like an odd, not very comforting answer, considering how rough the times I was going through were. But for me, it was the perfect answer. It spoke to a truth in me.
I’m not one to want to be enslaved to a weak authority. If I am going to place all my hope in a god, I want it to be a real one, with power and godlike qualities. I want to be able to ask my god, why? But I want to be fearful of him as well. I don’t want to serve an ATM in the sky, or find special mantras that will force a deity to succumb to my infantile authority. I don’t want to imagine my god wringing his hands in worry over anything I think about what he says or what he does.
I want the God who predestined His own Son’s death at the beginning of the world. I want the God who shuts up the sea behind doors, who gives orders to the morning, who has seen for himself the gates of the shadow of death. I happily give over my life and all that it will ever mean to a god who is really a God. I want a worthy God to strive for a life that is worthy of Him.
Here I am, years later. All those terrible problems have resolved themselves in one way or another. But the most valuable treasure I took from the experience is the knowledge that my God will do as He pleases with what belongs to Him. For me, there is a trust that comes from understanding the God I serve is powerful, and He doesn’t serve me.
I’m saved by His mercy and by His grace, which He has freely given me without a single iota of it being commissioned by me at all. And because of this, I can trust that He doesn’t need mantras, or powerful pieces of cloth purchased from holy men, or some twisted exercises designed to summon up immeasurable things like faith. He doesn’t need anything from me at all, and because of this, I both fear Him, as well as respect Him.