It has been one year since I wrecked on (or should I say off) my dirt bike. If you are interested in the details of the crash check out my previous posts, but here are the quick details.
I was testing a new clutch cable, and while only wearing a helmet and no other gear I hit a pile of rocks in a vacant lot while going somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 mph. The bike landed 45 feet from the rocks. I landed on my head and finally rested on my back about 10 feet past the bike.
I broke my left arm, broke my sternum, and compressed 4 vertebra in my back. I had surgery on my arm and wore a back brace for 10 weeks as I healed.
As I look back over the past year, I can say that this event definitely has changed my life.
1. I understand pain in a whole new way
I have a pretty high pain tolerance, and the initial recovery went fine. Before my accident when I would hear people complain of chronic daily pain I thought they were crazy. I can honestly say now that I know what they mean. My arm still hurts at some point every day. My back gets sore and tired quickly. Whether you want to blame the metal that was added to my body or the that I did not do physical therapy like I should have the fact is the phrase “fully recovered” has kind of a fuzzy definition.
2. I have changed more in non-physical ways than in physical ways.
Yes I have a wicked scar on my arm now, but the biggest changes that have come from this were spiritual and emotional. I love God and my family and friends a lot different now than I did 366 days ago. I have experienced brokenness before this accident, but it means something completely different to me now. Words can not fully explain what I know to be true regarding this, so I think I will leave it at that.
This one “accident” started me down a different direction than I had ever expected to go down life’s path. Now a year later, I am glad it did. This has been a year of growth for me; as a Christ follower, as a husband, a father, a youth worker, and every other identity I could add to the list. I feel I have grown more in this past year than perhaps any other year of my life – this accident being the first of several key things that has spurred it on. My hope is every year I can look back and make the same statement; “this year was better than the one before it thanks to God.”
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
“I will make you lie down in green pastures.” Psalm 23:2
This was the phrase God whispered (then started to scream) to me in response to my question “Why?” I knew that I was not being fully obedient to what God had asked me to do, which I quickly remedied as I described in part 2. However, once my book manuscript was completed I realized this was not the only thing God wanted me to change.
The entire sentence in the 23rd Psalm is “He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul.” Yes, God had made me lie down; quite literally lie in a hospital bed, but what could possibly be “green” about this experience? Just as any near death or traumatic experience tends to do, this caused me to take a pretty honest and raw look at my life. My lack of writing was only a portion of what God wanted me to see, here are a few of the other things I have learned about myself.
1. How “loud” my life had become.
It is a pretty common thing in life, and especially youth ministry, to view busyness as a badge of honor. I did not realize how busy my life had become until everything came to a screeching halt that Thursday evening. I was not doing bad things, but between my young family, my church, my friends, and my hobbies my life was moving at mach 10. Quiet waters suddenly did describe my life and I quickly realized how much I liked it.
2. How complacent I had become in my faith.
Being a pastor means that almost no one asks how your faith journey is going, and very few people ever asked me (a few people did but I often just gave the token “good” in response). I think every Christian thinks they “give God everything” and I certainly thought I had. Again, I wasn’t doing anything bad with my life, but I had become very comfortable in my busy life, routine devotions, and continual church involvement to where I was not growing much in my own faith. The biggest problem with this was how comfortable I really was. I was living an incredibly blessed life and there was no reason to change anything (so I thought). My comfort had become a dead end rut and I had not even realized it.
3. That my soul did need restored.
God knew something needed to change for me even though I didn’t. Many times I have thought about what my life would be like today if I had never crashed, and I can honestly say I would rather be where I am right now instead. Being in the spiritual rut I had created was getting boring, and I was taking steps through selfish decisions to make it more exciting (like devoting a lot more time and money to dirt bikes). Even now as I am searching for a publisher for my book and tallying more and more rejections, God continues to show me how selfish of a life I was leading. I like to be in control, and I now see how much that has affected everything in my life including my faith.
I am still in the process of being transformed by God, and wrestling with how to ACTUALLY give God everything, but now I know God is making progress with me again. A book that has helped me quite a bit in putting this all in perspective is Maximum Faith by George Barna. If you have been a Christian for any length of time or are bored with your faith I highly suggest it. My hope is you don’t have to end up within an inch of your life being over like I did for God to get your attention.
If you are a Christian, even if you are a youth worker or pastor, how is YOUR faith journey going? I would love to hear your answer, and don’t send me a token “everything is good”!
I will do one more post to conclude this series including some pictures of my scraped up bike, my broken helmet, and my not broken anymore arm.
The other day I was reading through the gospel of Luke and noticed a verse that seemed kind of odd. The content of the verse is not odd, but how it is placed between two different miracle stories is, at least at first glance.
Luke 5:16 (NIV) 16But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
Jesus heals a man of leprosy, then moves on to the crowded house where the man is lowered through the roof and eventually healed. This one simple sentence randomly sits between these two stories, seemingly having nothing to do with either one. However, in verse 17, right before the man is lowered through the roof Luke makes this statement: “the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick.”
There are two powerful lessons that I need to be constantly reminded of from these two simple statements by Luke.
1. It is all about God’s power.
If I am doing anything out of my own power, it won’t be as good or effective as it would be with God’s power. Even Jesus could not heal someone without God’s presence. I can’t accomplish anything in ministry without God’s presence either. Sure I can entertain teenagers on my own, but that is not what God has called me to do as a youth worker. In order for teenagers, or anyone for that matter, to be saved or grow as a Christian it has to be God’s power working in and through them. The truth is I cannot save anyone, only God can do that. My job is to present them with the truth, help them anyway I can to tap into God’s power, and then get out of the way.
2. The way to get God’s presence and the power that comes with it is through prayer and solitude.
The more I study the life of Jesus, the more I see how often Jesus went off by himself and prayed. The more popular he became throughout his ministry the more he did it. Typically the more successful I am with stuff the less I do it. Obviously this is not a good trend on my part, and also why it is easy to start relying on myself instead of God for success. If I neglect my own faith and spiritual health because of the busyness of ministry I am not being an example worthy of following, and I never want to be in that place.
These are two truths that I need to be reminded of on a regular basis. How about you? How are you doing at living these out?