My Scrape with Death

We landed in a field outside the car.

It happened so fast.

Everything spinning.

Then the grinding noise became a thud.

Smoke rising in the distance.

And I remember feeling grief—strangely enough. I knew my parents would be devastated if I died. I couldn’t die, but I feared I would.

Soon the grief turned to greater fear when the ambulance arrived and concerned faces rushed me to the hospital.

I had a blown eye socket. My nose ripped from my face. And the doctors hurried me into surgery.

Hours later, in the recovery room, nurses told me not to touch my face. And I knew it was bad when they refused to let me look in a mirror.

The car wreck became my nightmare where core fears developed. Every car ride terrified me for years. My mind would not calm down. 25 mph felt like 100 mph.

I felt vulnerable and out of control. And, even today, I have a fear of death due to that night.

This trauma was the END of my innocence, the end of my childhood, the end of seeing the world as a place of possibilities. The world became a place where things die.

I was 15 when this car crash happened. And I was 15 for the next 30 years of my life. Tom Rutledge says, “Fear gains its strength at our retreat.” And I retreated inside myself.

I developed the core fear of my own fragility as a human—the fear of death. And my family didn’t know how to process it with me, so I struggled in silence.

As an athlete in the mid 60’s, I was taught not to show weakness, to wipe the blood off, to pay no attention to my concussions. But as wounded children we carry the pain into our adult lives. The wounds don’t just go away. We find ways to cope that lead us further into fear and isolation, and in turn actually deepens the wound.

But Gerald May writes, “No matter how oppressed we are, by other people and circumstances or by our own internal addictions, some small capacity for choice remains unvanquished.”[1]

This is tenacity.

This is movement—understanding there’s a choice for change.

And healing happens when I align my will with the divine will.

No matter how long it takes.

It doesn’t mean you forget what has happened to you. The car wreck fractured my face, which healed over time, but I couldn’t heal my fractured mind in the same amount of time.

But my journey to freedom began when I stopped retreating from fear. I knew I couldn’t heal alone. I had to break the silence. I’d spent most of my life avoiding my insecurity. I continuously ran from confrontation. I tried to cope by medicating myself.

But it never set me free.

Victory emerged when I stopped looking at life through the filter of my own strength.     

And today I can say, as the Apostle Paul, “I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back” (Philippians 3:12-14, THE MESSAGE).

Begin your journey to freedom today. It’s never too late. Join a group. Break the silence.

[1] Gerald May, Addiction and Grace, (New York: HarperCollins, 1988), 18.

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