I can think of better ways to cap a Fourth of July celebration than doing a face plant in a downtown parking lot. However, a face plant is what I did.
It was night. About 90,000 people (real numbers—that’s what the TV reporter said!) and I were headed to cars after the fireworks show. I tripped off a curb into a storm drain, and landed on my face. At first I didn’t know if it was gravel in my mouth or teeth. It turned out to be teeth. Mine. Two of ‘em, shattered into smithereens.
Later that week, after spending many hours and a much of money at the dentist (with follow up scheduled for still more dental work) a friend told me that she was struggling on my behalf. God could have prevented my accident. Why had He allowed it to happen? she wondered.
Now that’s a valid question. I wasn’t surprised by it because it’s one I’ve asked God many times about other hard things that have happened in my life. What surprised me was that the question hadn’t even crossed my mind this time. Why not?
As I thought about it, I realized to my amazement that my primary emotion regarding the accident and its aftermath had been gratitude. Thank You God that I was with friends when this happened! Thank You Lord that my jaw wasn’t dislocated, and no bones were broken. Thank You Father that I have dental insurance to help with some of the cost. Thank You Jesus that the damage to my face is far less than it could have been. Thank You that I didn’t get a concussion. Thank You God that friends care about me. Thank You that I have soft foods to eat.
And then the biggest thank You of all: Thank You, God, for proving to me that You are with me even in the middle of hard and scary things. Thank You for showing me that I can trust You to take care of me, even in the hard stuff I never could have planned for.
Background: the future sometimes seems scary. It’s a common feeling many of us widows share, especially if we don’t have our peeps nearby. God reminds me over and over in His Word that He will be with me in the future, come what may. But my inexplicable gratitude in the midst of this accident (I take no credit for it at all—it’s was the Holy Spirit, trust me!)—classifies as a near miracle.
I pondered some more and recalled the good advice a friend had given me years earlier: Instead of asking God “Why?” he suggested, try asking Him, “What are You doing in this and how do You want me to respond?” I’ve tried to practice that advice over the years. I certainly don’t do it every time, but apparently it is becoming more of an instinct. (Yay, God! Thanks for continuing to do Your good work in me!)
On this occasion, I don’t actually remember specifically asking those questions. Still, I had a clear impression of what God’s presence and purpose in this hard thing. It’s like He was saying, I want you to see that I am with you no matter what. There’s a lot to be grateful here—focus on that. See all the ways I am with you? Can you start to trust that I’ll be with you in the future, too?
And I did! And instead of feeling mistreated or abandoned, I felt loved and cared for. Instead of feeling afraid, I felt faith rise up. And even some joy!
I still don’t know why God allowed the accident to happen. But I’m glad He helped me see what He was doing and how I could be with Him in it. And that might even be better than knowing why!