Six months ago I had a massive car accident. A propane truck ran a redlight at an intersection I was approaching, and I didn’t see him until the last possible second. For a split second, all I saw was truck. My entire windshield was filled with truck and time went into slow motion.
My mind immediately thought one thing: This is how I die.
This is going to sound weird, but for a long time I always wondered how I was going to die. And here it was, about to happen and I was relieved because I was always afraid I’d die in some stupid way that they would have to put in Wikipedia. I have always been afraid I’d go to heaven, sitting next to some burly dude who would say something like, “I just jumped on a grenade at a school and saved a hundred kids. How’d you die?” And I’d have to go, “Oh I choked to death on my own saliva while I was sleeping last night.”
And in that 1/100th of second, a lot of thoughts passed through my mind. And honestly, most of it was just acceptance. We all have to die some way, I was just glad my death wasn’t through a protracted fight with cancer, or something stupid or something really painful. Sure, I would have preferred to die some heroic way, like by saving kids or something, but I don’t really get a say in any of that.
And beyond acceptance, I just felt peace. God had his hand on me, and that hadn’t changed. We all die sometime, and I lived trusting God and I have no regrets about that, so I’m going to trust him in death as well.
Then time sped up. The air bag deployed, I jolted to the side as the entire car did a 270° turn up on the sidewalk. I jumped out of the car. Shaken up. But totally alive.
I’ve now told that story dozens if not hundreds of times, and the one thing I can’t ever get out of my mind is the fact that 1/100th of a second difference in timing could have changed the story completely. I hit the truck head on, with six feet of steel, engine and airbags between him and me. A split second could have made him hit me head on, where he would have plowed through my door, where nothing but a tenth of an inch of glass would separate my head from his truck. I probably would have been a human pancake. And the only thing that prevented it from happening that way was a few milliseconds. Unbelievable.
I don’t know why some people have accidents like mine where they were on the wrong side of that 1/100th equation and ended up dead or seriously injured. Or why yakados like me get lucky and end up walking away without a bruise or injury.
Someone asked me if my brush with death was going to change how I lived my life. Up until that point I hadn’t even really thought of it that way. I walked away mostly shrugging my shoulders thinking, “stuff happens.” You can’t predict it, let alone control it. We all have a number and one day ours gets called.
But, in the six months since, I still can’t get away from feeling like God protected me. In fact, I don’t know how often God has protected me, because I don’t know when the red light I’m cursing at is taking extra long to turn because God is delaying my encounter with another truck. I just happened to directly witness God’s protection today. He may have protected me thousands of times in the past and I just never realized it because I could never see it.
I still don’t know how I’m going to die. I still hope it will be heroically but fear it will be in some stupid way I’ll be embarrassed about. I can’t really control that though, but i can control how I live.
Jesus said to find your life you must lose it. And I don’t think he meant that literally, I think he meant that our lives are too small to be all about our lives. I have had that written on my bathroom mirror for a long time: my life is too small to be all about my life.
I don’t want the story of my life to be: “he went to work a lot. Went out to dinner with friends often. Took a few cool vacations. Bought some cool stuff from Apple. Then he died. The end.” Cool story bro. Don’t ever tell it again.
I don’t care if I never become rich or famous or successful. I don’t care if books aren’t written and movies aren’t filmed about my life. I just want to die knowing I did more than just live my life like my life is the only point. I want to know that I spent all I had pursuing things God cares about in the lives of people God loves.
Because when my number gets called for real next time, I don’t want any regrets about how well I lived my life. I want to go out confident I had done my best to love God and love people. What else will really matter?