#138 Softening My Heart

Photo by Killian Rose

On July 25, 2015 I was sitting on a motorcycle at a stoplight when a Dodge pickup truck driven by a drunk driver hit me from behind going 45 miles per hour. I was crushed between the truck and the car in front of me. My pelvis was shattered, my colon torn in half, my liver lacerated, ribs broken, arm broken, lung punctured, and the carotid artery in my neck nearly severed. I woke up under the pickup truck in so much pain, thinking, I have to get out from under this truck. I prayed, “God help me!” I was flown by helicopter to the university hospital. The paramedics kept saying, “Stay with us, stay with us,” which made me think I was dying.

When I came out of surgery, the doctors told me that I wouldn’t be able to have kids, I couldn’t go back to college for at least two years (I was 19 years old), and I would need to go to a rehabilitation hospital for a year to learn to walk again.

On my ninth day in the hospital I was able to move from my bed to a chair. I was released to my home, not a rehabilitation hospital, but I was still healing from multiple broken bones and was not able to bear weight on my legs. I had to have help brushing my teeth, getting a shower, shaving my legs, and going to the bathroom. My mom died when I was 14 and at the time of the accident my father was a single parent. He was happy to help me with all of the personal care I needed but I hated that he had to do all of those things for me. It was very humbling.

In October, I went back to doctor and found out that my bones were healing more quickly than expected. The doctor prescribed physical therapy and by the end of four weeks of physical therapy, I was able to walk with no severe limp. So instead of one year of inpatient therapy in a rehabilitation facility, I was able to walk with one month of outpatient therapy. In fact, this fall I hiked eight miles on a nearby mountain trail. I am so thankful to God for the remarkable healing! I was also able to go back to college in one semester instead of staying out two years.

After the accident, I experienced more than just physical healing. My mom’s death had been unexpected, a complication from a surgery. We had been so close and it was very hard for me to lose her. My dad is the pastor at our church and my mom had been the worship leader. She was also a teacher at my school. I missed her everywhere—at school, at home, at church. I felt like I couldn’t even go to my pastor for help because it was my dad and he was grieving too.

Years after my mom’s death, my dad got engaged to a woman, but I wasn’t nice to her and didn’t accept her. Accepting her meant I had to let go of my mom and I couldn’t do that. I missed her so much.

I hardened myself to protect myself from the hurt. I had closed off myself against relationships. Before the accident, I didn’t love myself and I didn’t think anyone else loved me—not even God. After the accident, so many people took care of me. There was an overwhelming sense of love and support of people rallying around me. I realized how many people loved me and that God had never stopped loving me. And despite how I had treated my dad’s fiancé, she showed me love and grace and took good care of me. I now see that my anger and bitterness had been hindering my dad and younger brother too from fully healing. Now our home is a place of real peace and it is a life-giving place to be.

Through this experience, God has softened my heart to receive and give love to others. I had internalized so much anger and hurt that it festered into external thorns. I tried to hide it and act okay, but I was hurting people. I didn’t want to accept that I hadn’t fully grieved. I had to realize the internal hurt. It was like a coffee cup with a hole in the bottom—I got all filled up on Sunday at church, but it would quickly drain out and there was no complete deliverance from my pain. I had to acknowledge the hole so that God could heal the hole and I could experience complete healing. And this is what has occurred. God is making a beautiful picture from the broken pieces.

The person driving the truck was a 20-year-old female driving on a suspended license, two times over the legal alcohol limit. Nearly a month after the accident, I was contacted by the commonwealth attorney about pressing charges. He recommended a 20-year prison sentence with the possibility of parole in 17 years. I told him I wanted to pray about what to do. I talked to my dad and the chaplain at my college. I was being asked to make this decision at 20 years of age. I wondered how I could send someone to jail for 20 years. And what if she had kids? I knew what it was like to lose a mom. I didn’t want to take a mom away from her children. But I also didn’t want her to go back on the road and harm someone else.

My chaplain talked to me about restorative justice, which is a model where the offender knows what has happened to the offended and they plan what is best for the recovering offender so that they don’t offend again. I met with the commonwealth attorney and asked about restorative justice, but he said there was nothing like that in our state. Regardless, I didn’t want her to serve a 20-year prison sentence. Instead, she was sentenced to five years of probation with six months in jail and another six months in rehabilitation and 100 hours of community service. Her conditions included random drug screening and sobriety tests and maintaining a full-time job. The attorney was shocked that I didn’t want her to be punished more severely. He said with her alcohol level and the extent of my injuries, he was surprised that he wasn’t working with the surviving family in a homicide case.

Fast forward a year, and I got a text from my dad that the woman had been called in for her random drug screening and she drove to the courthouse with a suspended license and drugs in her system. Since she violated her conditions, she would have to go to jail for 20 years. I had gotten a lot of compliments from people about the grace I had shown her and I told them it was God impressing upon me to do this. But when she violated her conditions, I got so angry with her and thought she spat on my grace. And then I realized we do this with God—we spit on His grace. I have done this. It was humbling to realize this and it helped me to be less angry and more compassionate.

Even though I still suffer physical pain and limitations, God has brought good from the accident. Because I lost my mother, I have been able to comfort other young people who have lost a parent from a place of really knowing how difficult it is. I have personally experienced great physical healing, but the greatest healing has been the spiritual restoration of self-worth that is not based on me following handed-down religious traditions, but instead is based on God’s grace. I am confident that there is nothing I can do to undo His love for me. 

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

Leave a Reply