Sandy was a passenger in a small pick-up truck. As they entered the bridge, so did a log truck with its rear tandem axle jacked up. But as soon as the truck entered the bridge, this eight-wheel unit broke loose and came straight at the pick-up, rolling over it and removing everything above the hood. The woman who was driving was unharmed except for a neck injury that the Lord immediately and completely healed right after church the following Sunday, six days later. But the people who saw the accident thought at first that my wife had been decapitated. In the extreme mercy of God, she was not, and God had sent his angels to wrap that passenger door around Sandy's body, keeping her organs from being crushed. But Sandy did go into a coma, had her pelvis broken in several places, and a nerve severed in her brain.
What is our comfort in times like these? It is this: no matter how bad our life may be at a particular point in terms of suffering and anxiety, God is still God. The God who grieves and groans in my suffering, who enters inside me to live in me and is grieved in my grief, that God is sovereign. And in that sovereignty, he ordains everything that happens (Ephesians 1:11). But he ordains it with a twist on it, and that twist is this: he's turning it for my good.
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers" (Romans 8:28-29).
What does that mean? What is the good? Is it winning the lottery, obtaining a life-long goal, finishing our education, a new relationship? What is the good, ultimately?
We can't define the good arbitrarily or abstractly. Romans 8:29 tells us what the good is: we are "predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son" (Romans 8:29).
Things such as what happened 25 years ago don't seem that way, do they? So this is something we have to receive by faith, that God is at work in ALL THINGS to shape our character to become more like Jesus.
He won't spare anything to make us like Jesus, "that he might be the firstborn among many brothers" (Romans 8:29). That is the good to which all things are working.
There is nothing, absolutely nothing in this world that can satisfy us like knowing and loving Jesus. And there is nothing that is more fulfilling in this life than to begin to be made more like Jesus, to know something of his humility and gentleness, his putting other people and their needs and welfare above his own. Because it is in self-denial that we experience true self-fulfillment -- one of many psychological paradoxes we experience on the path to mental wholeness.
As I look back over the past quarter century, I can see that this dreadful and frightening day was part of God's plan because he loves Sandy, and he loves me.
During the time of recovery, I had to tend to five children, from a senior at Alexandria Senior High School, to a toddler as well as my elderly mother who lived in our home and suffered from senile dementia.
It was a profoundly lonely time, and the emotional distance between Sandy and me began to grow, as days passed into weeks, and weeks passed into months. But one fruit of that distance was that we began to pray together -- something that we had never regularly done before, apart from individual and family prayers.
Beginning in January 1989, as her healing progressed to the point that she could walk on her own, we started meeting every morning, holding hands and pouring out our hearts to God together. It was the best thing that ever happened to our marriage, and it is something we still do, even if it is sometimes by telephone because one of us is out of town.
Also, the woman who emerged from that coma was a profoundly changed woman. When she woke up out of her coma in the Intensive Care Unit of Frances Cabrini Hospital, she had no pain and never has had any pain from the accident since then. She profoundly sensed that she had been somewhere else during the days her body lay in that bed, a place of unimaginable beauty and joy, a place of where people gathered to worship God with the most glorious singing she had ever heard, a mass choir like none on earth.
She began October 10, 1988, as a very kind and decent woman, but also a woman who was sometimes very frightened. She emerged several days later as a woman without any fear . . . without fear ever again. And she returned a woman on a mission. She now saw life as very short but with very long-lasting consequences. Before she liked to lurk in the shadows because she was shy; now she saw that she had a mission to finish, a calling to fulfill, and no matter her shyness, that calling took precedence.
My wife is the greatest earthly treasure God has ever given me: she is my dearest friend, my wisest counselor, my most encouraging coach, and my lover. I give thanks that God ordained that she would not be decapitated on that bridge but would have her life extended 25 more years, 25 good and fulfilling years, years of joy and with a renewed zest for living -- Joie de vivre.
The anniversary of that day reminds me that it is in suffering that we grow, not only in character and relationships, but in happiness -- as we respond to the difficulties of life by seeking God, by praying and believing God's promises, no matter what our common sense tells us, and then by faith, by praising God, not only because this, too, shall pass, but because it was planned by God before the worlds began for our greater happiness and fulfillment. Bob/Robert Benn Vincent, Sr.