Almost a decade ago I had a car accident that changed my view of vulnerability. Before that night I believed being vulnerable was inherently negative. I was driving home after work. It was about 8PM on a mid-summer’s day. At the time, I was employed as a middle school youth pastor. My husband volunteered with the youth, mentoring young worship leaders and musicians as well as underprivileged boys from our neighborhood. On this night he had taken a small group of the boys to a movie. That’s where he was when I wrecked.
The wreck happened on a narrow snake curve about a mile from our home. I was driving a Volvo station wagon. It was given to me and it was my dream car. Since college I had wanted a Volvo station wagon. Finally, I had one. The vehicle was symbolic. I focused on what I believed it said about me, that I think for myself and that I will courageously—perhaps even defiantly—tell my truth. I wasn’t good at that yet. So, the Volvo served as a symbol of hope for the person I wanted to be.
No Where to Go
As I entered the curve, I saw bright lights coming at me in my lane. I knew there was no where for me to go. Regardless, I glanced right looking for a way to avoid the impending doom. When BAAM! I heard the sound. You know the one. The one only wrecks make. The next thing I knew I was sitting still in the car covered in the sting of air bag dust. It was smoky. I assumed that was the dust. I wondered to myself if I should try to get out of the car or stay put.
Split Second Decision
Before the accident I had back issues. Specifically, I knew I had a bulging thoracic disk. Dr.’s had warned me to be very careful. They said that area of the body was generally well protected. However, the damaged disk posed a great risk. Therefore, I wondered if it was wise to move. All of those thoughts ran through my head in a mili-second. I made a split second decision to get out of the car.
Teetering On An Embankment
I took my seat belt off and tried to open the door. It was stuck. It wouldn’t open. So, I crawled to the passenger door. I felt the car teeter from left to right with the shifting of my weight. I didn’t realize it had landed at the top of a ravine and was teetering on the embankment. No luck with that door. It was stuck too. I crawled to the back seat doors. They were stuck, too. So, I crawled to the back of the wagon. By this time, the car was even more smoky. It was difficult to see. I was disoriented and struggling to think straight.
God, Please Help Me
Additionally, people were beating on the windows yelling at me to get out of the car. But, the back hatch wouldn’t open. I was trapped. The car was burning and teetering over a ravine. So, I pulled my phone from my pocket and sat there for a moment trying to decide whether to call my husband, Tom or 911. Unfortunately, I was at capacity for figuring my own way out of the car. Flustered, I sat back on my feet. And with a deep sigh said, “God, please help. I don’t know what to do.”
Pulling Me Out
Suddenly, there was a man beating on the back window. He pressed his face close. Terror was in his eyes. He yelled, “Get out of the car!” My eyes locked on his and I said, “I can’t!” He disappeared. In a heartbeat, he was back. Abruptly, he yelled for me to lean back from the window. I did. He broke the window and pulled me out of the car.
Hurry, The Car Is On Fire
He helped me stand then told me to hurry. His plea was urgent, “Hurry, hurry. We have to run. The car is on fire.” With his help I limped as fast as I could. Confused, I thought to myself, “The car is on fire?” So, I looked back. Behind us I saw 12 foot flames shooting from the driver’s seat I exited just moments earlier. The front of the car was engulfed in fire. Instantly, it was clear. He saved me. Thoughts of what my death would have done to my children and Tom flashed through my mind. Utterly overwhelmed with gratitude, I thanked the man who saved my life.
I Couldn’t Help Myself
Before this event I prided myself on being independent. I didn’t like the idea of needing anyone. But, in the back of the car that night I couldn’t help myself. I didn’t have the resources. In that moment I turned to the only place I believed could help me–God. So, I asked Him to help me. And, instantly there was help. I needed God and I needed the man who decided to break my car window and pull me from a burning vehicle. We need each other. Vulnerability isn’t negative. It’s necessary.
The Story Resurfaced
Recently, as I am walking through another traumatic event this story resurfaced for me. And, I kept having flashes of that moment in the back of the wagon when I leaned back on my feet and said, “God, please help me! I don’t know what to do.” Instantly, life saving help was there. I will tell you more about that in my next post.