It was an actual one, this face-to-the-ground, concrete-slappin’ around moment.
Off on Windsor, deep in the heart of dark…Urbana we slipped past stalks of corn and forlorn nighttime scenes of moon beams. Not perfect, but pretty darn close. Clouds clustering stars and nudging each other to shine. There was so much inexplicable beauty captured in a few distant, dim stars, so far away from the creepy statue trail that left me screaming. I’m kind of a wimp, you know. There was that post Large Group excitement, the kind where you’re on Drama Ministry, and God just leaves you breathless. That kind of night. The kind of jittery, post-game nonsense of Cat & Mouse. A combination game of SWAT grade sniper tactics and elementary school Capture the Flag…it gives you the same sort of breathless you get at 5 years old, playing your first Hide-and-Seek. You feel adrenaline shooting up your eyeballs.
I don’t remember much of what was said and done prior to the crash. I know I felt about 7 again, playing playground tag and Hot Lava…it was nostalgia, sepia-toned glory for the kids in all of us. In reality, it was just a couple of college kids wanting to relive the glory days of wooden playgrounds, but who’s to judge? Funny how life works…one moment you’re cruising, the next you’re eating concrete.
That’s exactly what happened. I attempted a new “stretch” I saw one of the other guys do, my canvas sneaker met Schwinn aluminum spokes…the rest, well, is history. According to some, I flipped off my bike…airborne for a couple of minutes. Well, I did always want to fly. It’s weird, to say the least. Time slows down, stops even, for a few precious seconds. I felt my front right tooth ripped from my gums, but no pain. I heard the sold “crunch” of several teeth meeting the oh-so solid, oh-so unforgiving ground. Yet…it didn’t hurt. My first thoughts?
“Where’s my tooth? Can you guys find my tooth?” This isn’t real. This can’t be real. Tongue finds gaps and tunnels where there should be bridges of teeth. Spit. Blood red, orange under orange lighting. “Lord, is this punishment for my vanity?” Hiccupy, tearful laughter. This isn’t real, this can’t be real. Laying down under a now clear night sky, away, away, away. This is real. This is real. Why is this real?
Delirium lends shock a free pass sometimes. No pain, and I kept cracking jokes. Maybe it was for my own deflated ego and waning sanity. Through the bruised and battered way to get insurance, to drive to the ER…I remember thinking or saying (it’s hard to say which), “You know…God never puts us through anything we can’t handle.” Mumbling through a mouth full of blood. By the grace of God or through the Holy Spirit, there was some peace in my heart. It’s true, in crisis prayer is vital. It’s no longer the theological, “Why God?” but it’s the heartbroken, “Help me, Father.”
ER. Jess stays up with me the whole night and I am bonkers crazy (in retrospect). I’m weeping for my mistakes, then I’m laughing, then crying again. Stop, rewind, repeat. The whole night. I remember feeling incredibly thankful and totally unworthy. God…why did you save me? I’m not in a coma, I have no concussion or broken nose…everything but the mouth. The crazy ER resident who shifted everything without pain meds. The 10+ shots of Novocaine up the roof and sides of my mouth. The drill. High pitched screaming. Was that me screaming? What hurt more…when he tore out my heart or when the dentist repaired me mouth? Hard to say.
Somewhere between the 7th and 8th shot of numbing, I swallowed too much of the drug…I couldn’t breathe. It was a prayer, a praise, a conviction. Lord, I want to live, I want to live. I’m sorry, I want to live. Tears, more tears, endless tears. Joy? Sorrow? Relief? Maybe all of them. I could breathe again. His grace is that sufficient. Was that the moment when everything clicked?
My mind wrapped around that night, curling around those painful moments like a space heater. They were refining moments, not worthless. They composed a divine collision, and through the rubble of my life I saw God.
God is good. Among my friends at the crash, several had cars. Some were MCB or PT majors slated towards medicine. I couldn’t have hoped for a “better” accident situation.
God provides. The endodontist I went to later admits that the ER splint was near perfect. Jess, who happened to be in my summer small group, spent the whole night with me. I don’t believe this was an accident, and I’m so thankful for friends who embrace battlefields like it’s nothing.
God is in control. Through all my failure, my collisions, and my imminent fall, God was there. His love wrapped like tendrils around fallen bike handles and broken teeth.
God is good. God provides. God is in control.
Diving Collision. Pun intended.
“19 By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; 20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22 and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.”
~ 1 John 3: 19-24 (via Bible Gateway)