Today is one of my bad back days. It’s days like today that remind me: perspective is everything. You see, thirteen years-ago this coming May me and my family were in a car accident. I was traveling on a highway in Iowa where we were living at the time, and a small car on a gravel road blew right through the stop sign without even slowing down. There was nothing I could do. I plowed into the rear quarter panel of the oncoming car, and it literally spun like a top off the highway and came to a stop. Both the driver and his girlfriend passenger were not injured.
Two of my daughters were in the very back seat of our mini-van (which I had just bought only a month before), with my wife and dog as front seat passengers. The car was totaled. My girls were not harmed. But my wife tore her shoulder’s rotator cuff protecting the dog and had to have an agonizing surgery to repair it. My lower back was injured, but not in a way which surgery could repair. To this day I live with chronic pain. Some days it’s not bad, maybe a one or two on the pain scale. But on my bad days I can barely walk across the room, and I need cane to get around. Today is one of those days.
I have played the scene of the accident in my mind hundreds of times. I have thought time and again about what I could have done to prevent the accident. But there was no way to avoid it. I thought about the fact that if we just would have left a minute earlier or a minute later from my parents’ house from where we were visiting, all would be fine. Yet, I know that kind of thinking is a fool’s errand. I have pondered every possible scenario in my head and have gotten nowhere.
It also took me awhile to forgive the young man who was driving the other car. He changed my life, and not in a good way. Although his insurance took care of everything and he was very repentant about the whole thing, I was understandably mad for a long time. I did, over time, come to the point of forgiving him.
Through the years I have learned to live with my limitations. I have now accepted the pain as part of my life. But, on occasion, I sometimes I can’t help but think of how my life would be today if I hadn’t been in that stupid accident.
About three years ago I was praying alone in the church for which I was a pastor. And God brought the accident to my mind. I said to God, “Lord, we’ve been through this accident hundreds of times together. I don’t want to think about it anymore. Why are you bringing this up now?”
I’m not sure I really wanted an answer, but God brought it up because he knew I was finally ready to get his perspective on the accident. Out of the hundreds of times I went over that accident in my mind, the one perspective I never took was that of the young man – the other driver. God invited me to take a different view, from the other driver. So, I did. I know that intersection like the back of my hand, so it wasn’t a hard exercise.
I put myself in the driver’s seat of his car. I’m driving down the gravel road not paying attention to the fact that a stop sign is coming up. I blow through the sign onto the highway and right in front of a minivan who slams on the brakes just enough to crush the rear quarter panel. I spin out like a top and come to rest only a few feet from a huge Iowa grain elevator.
For the first time in my life I finally understood. God had a divine appointment for me that day. You see, if I had not come along just when I did, that young man and his girlfriend would have blown through the stop sign and struck that grain elevator. It would have killed them both instantly.
Suddenly, my perspective changed 180 degrees. Previously, I had always thought about myself and my family. I always considered my hardship and my change of life. But now I saw that God sent his servant to save two lives that day. Had I not struck his car, causing him to spin and come to a rest unharmed, two people would have died.
Now, every time my back acts up, like today, and it effects how my life is lived, I’m reminded that it is a very small price to pay for the lives of two human beings. Perspective is everything.
The biblical meaning of “repentance” is literally to have a change of mind – to see a different perspective.
The Bible invites us to view our lives with new lenses. Our hurts and our pains, our sorrows and our sufferings, our changes and our limitations, are all part of something much bigger that God is doing in the world. We are not always privy to his plans and purposes. But his Word challenges us to take a perspective of the world, of humanity, and of ourselves that is counter to how we often think only about ourselves.
The thread of God’s moral perspective, his view of human ethics, runs through the entirety of the Bible. The psalmist reminds us that this Word is good, sweet, and more precious than gold (Psalm 19). The Apostle Paul reminds us that this Word is our wisdom to live by (1 Corinthians 1:18-25). And Jesus, as the Word made flesh among us, lived that loving and gracious Word with perfect moral and ethical goodness. The temple, as the place where God’s Word was read and observed, was not to be adulterated with the view of making a profit – which was why Jesus drove out the money-changers (John 2:13-22). Later, after Jesus died and rose from death, his disciples gained a new perspective. They remembered their master’s words and affirmed them as being the Word of God. They believed. Their repentance and faith changed the world.
God is inviting us to take up his Word and see our lives, the lives of others, and every event and situation through that lens. We are to see Jesus, not only as a great teacher, a moral and good person, and a loving healer – but also as Lord and Savior. In a very small way I suffered so that someone else could live. But Jesus suffered sin, death, and hell in our place so that you and I could live – so that we might have the eternal life of enjoyment with God forever.
Allow the Word of God to shape your lives and form your thinking today and every day. You might not always know what God is doing, but you can be assured that everything he does is just, right, and good.
May you know Christ better in this season as you reflect upon our Lord’s great sacrifice on our behalf. May you know the love of God the Father, the grace of the Lord Jesus, and the encouragement of the Holy Spirit. Amen.