It was instinct and adrenaline, a hopeful protector but futile shield:
“Close your eyes, Abby.”
Impotent words, like the reflex a mama uses when brakes are slammed and her arm flings across the front seat of the car.
The big sister in the driver’s seat says it to the one born 18 months after her, before her brain has time to process their perilous and present reality.
She’s lost control of her car and it’s spinning spinning spinning and no one wants to see what happens next.
Before the car landed on the wrong side of the road, bruised in front, battered in back and windshield shattered, I wonder if their young lives flashed behind squinched shut eyes. Did angels embrace them?
I had hugged them goodbye 14 hours earlier.
* * * * * * *
It was rare gift–
a week-long visit with my sister, brother-in-law and two college-age nieces, something that has never happened before and will likely never happen again. Nine of us sardined into our small German apartment, learning how to share a single shower, a solitary toilet…life. It was crazy/wonderful.
My sister and I have almost always been close, bound more tightly due to the death of our mom before she had the chance to buy our first bra. We needed each other though I suspect we didn’t realize it so much back then.
That’s why I’ve always delighted in my nieces’ interaction with one another–they’re about the same age difference as we were, and their friendship is as thick as the sister-blood running through their veins. While my own daughter fiercely loves her two younger brothers, I’ve sometimes felt like I failed her by not providing a sister.
Living on top of one another for a week ~ and I do mean literally when driving short distances ~ we collectively dismissed convenience, privacy and loss of comfort; minuscule price to pay for my family investing a week with us in Germany. My brother-in-law would call such inconveniences “first world problems” because, h e l l o—we’re living in and they’re visiting EUROPE!
I’ve never before seen seven days fly by in such a hurry.
* * * * * * * *
make the nine-hour return flight home without incident.
My sister and her husband planned a few more days exploring Italy on their own, a rare treat and an early celebration for their 26th wedding anniversary. My husband and I joined them the first night.
Beneath the backdrop of verdant mountains whose peaks shyly hid behind clouds, my brother-in-law softly emptied his thoughts: how fortunate we are to journey this grandeur, something our own parents never experienced before death. He also admitted a little guilt of the parental variety, questioning their decision to stay longer but sending their daughters home.
Within hours the girls would have a tire blow out and be spinning out of control on I-985 just outside Atlanta, 30 minutes from home.
Thank you, Jesus, thank you, Jesus…they were the ones to tell us.
* * * * * *
There’s a happy ending to our story–miraculously no other cars were involved and my nieces weren’t injured.
A thousand “could’ves” and “what ifs” creep into our mind, and the only response is to dismiss them with praise and gratitude to the God who loves them more than we do.
But “what if” what “could’ve” happened, happened? Would we still be praising and thanking God who loves them more than we do in the face of tragedy?
It’s a valid question, isn’t it? Because life can be so hard….
As I consider our (in)courage community, I know many dear ones are facing challenges, and heartbreakingly, even tragedy; not every story has a happy ending or the one we’d choose. Just remembering Sara reminds me when thousands longed for a different ending, and yet God deemed her worthy to tell that story. Sara’s exquisite testimony continues to travel far and wide because she chose joy in the face of painful human tragedy.
When (not if) you face a time when your faith is tried, when you want to shake angry fists in the face of God, cling to Ancient Truth, our hope, our healing. My eyes and heart are steeled towards God when I remember ~
His story is being told through my life; only in Christ’s presence am I am capable of rejoicing always despite circumstance, and that’s the story I so long to share.
His ways and thoughts are not like ours, and though it won’t always make sense from an earthly perspective, His is infinitely better. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
Everything…everything…is beautiful in God’s time. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
Every circumstance in my life can be used for my good, God’s glory and the advance of the Gospel. (Even the hard or horrible ones…especially the hard or horrible ones??)
Close calls provide opportunity to consider what I hope my response would be in a worst-case scenario, when the actual outcome is far better. And when the circumstance is “worst-case,” I’m thankful for the truth of 2 Corinthians 1:3-4:
No life experience is wasted ~ that is grace upon grace! During the storms, God is refining, maturing and conforming us to the image of Christ; eventually, in turn, to be able to encourage and minister to others who find themselves in similar circumstances.
Do you have “close call” stories to share? How has difficult life circumstances enabled or emboldened you to minister to others? Or how has someone else’s experience been precious to you?
by Robin Dance, a seeker of Truth and beauty.