April 27th, 2016. The sun was (probably) high in Nashville, Tennessee. I just got out of class, and was on my way home. The short distance and feeling of freedom/eco-friendliness were reasons enough to ride my bike (bicycle, like no motor) to class every day. But that day as I went through the traffic light, I would not sail through as I usually did. A distracted driver would come through the red light and T-bone me at approx. 35mph.
My spine was instantly crushed at the L1 column. I had what now looks like a bear claw gash on my back. Collapsed lung. Severe concussion (I think I'm still with it lol?). My arm must have shattered the windshield, because it was bleeding out badly. One of my arteries had been torn open, so much so that a Jimmy John's driver across the road saw it and came to help. She made a tourniquet around my humerus (lol?), and had someone hold my head straight. I was unconscious for a while, but apparently a few minutes after the tourniquet was made, I started coming to. An ambulance came and rushed me to Vanderbilt shortly afterwards.
The following weeks were the most painful of my life. Headaches, back pain/soreness, leg pains, general weakness, nausea... the list goes on and on. But worse was the mental pain. Not a day went by without a new realization of what my new life would be like. My legs didn't move a wink. No more soccer, biking, wake boarding, hiking, going anywhere that wasn't "accessible". Could I have kids? Could I even use the bathroom normally again? This hit me hard. I sometimes wondered "why live if it's so difficult?" It's hard enough to take a step back, but now I couldn't step at all.
It was also extremely difficult for family. My parents lived with me for the two months following the accident in a small hospital apartment. They totally altered their lives to make sure I was ok (super grateful for them :) ).
In my situation, one must ask ,"What did God have to do with this? If he's in control, why does he allow tragedy to happen?" Here was my train of thought:
"This accident just "happened". God isn't really involved in my life, or anything on earth below a macro level. He wouldn't do this to someone. A broken and fallen world sure would though. The world is messed up as a result of sin, and I'm just glad this won't happen in heaven. I guess God wants me to make the most of this."
While I think I was close, there was something I didn't yet understand about God:
GOD IS IN THE BUSINESS OF REDEMPTION
All of the stories have a theme: God using broken situations/people to do incredible things. Joseph. Saul (Paul). Jesus, who is really the ultimate example as he was killed and God used it to give Him and us eternal life! It's clear when you look in the Bible, but it takes on a whole new meaning when you experience it.
There are so many ways God has redeemed this accident, it's almost ridiculous. First of all, my legs are literally being redeemed, and there's a chance I will walk again someday. Second, I have joined the "sufferer's club". It's actually not all bad! In the club are people who understand through experience how to live without, how to suffer well. And people in the club have a story that's compelling. My words have more weight than they used to (you're reading this aren't you? :)). And I have something real to say. More than just the picture perfect life, I have a life that's been broken and is being rebuilt. We as humans are drawn to this narrative. Just watch any movie ever.
I listened to Viktor Frankl's book "Man's Search for Meaning", in which he details his experience in concentration camp as a Psychiatrist (he's also in the sufferer's club x10000000). One of my favorite lines from the book is:
“In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.”
Suffering is an opportunity to find new meaning. I have a hope that the meaning of all this suffering is to gain a platform from which to proclaim the God who takes broken situations and redeems them for His glory and our good! Talk about a thesis statement for life!
I will end with some incredible wisdom from James 1:
"2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. "
This is why I can thank God that I got hit on April 27th. He's given me purpose and hope. I would encourage you to see suffering as an opportunity to be mature and complete!