In light of the Easter season, I want to share what Jesus has done for me personally in my life. So often we as Christians forget to tell our glory stories–those times when Jesus did something for us that no one else could. This is the story of my salvation, of the day I trusted in Christ with all my heart, and how He has never left my side since.
I grew up in church. Went every Wednesday and twice on Sunday. I didn’t care about the preaching when I was a young boy (what kid does?), but I have so many fond memories of playing with my action figures and race cars among the church pews. I probably spent more time playing at church than I did praying.
But it was my home away from home, and I am forever grateful for that.
I was 7 years old when my family moved to North Carolina, and I lost my church home. We still went somewhere each Sunday, but we bounced around so many places that it was never the same. Church had never been a top priority for me (kids care about having fun and eating food, in that order), but from the time I was 7 until I was 13, it didn’t even make the list. I went to church because it was routine. I wasn’t a Christian. My faith, if I even had any, had never been tested.
That all changed on January 11, 1997.
My parents were taking my oldest brother, Stephen, back to college for the spring semester of his freshman year. It had snowed the previous days, and temperatures had been below freezing. But the weather had cleared up that morning, so once my parents and Stephen made it to the interstate, they’d be fine. They just had to get there first.
They never did.
An oncoming vehicle hit a patch of ice, slid across the road, and hit my parents’ van head-on. The accident occurred within two miles of our house, but my other brother and I (we had decided to stay home that day) did not find out what had happened until about an hour and a half later. A nurse called my aunt, who called us to relay the traumatic news:
Mom, Dad, and Stephen were in a car accident.
They’ve been air-lifted to Carolina Medical Center in Charlotte.
Mom is badly hurt.
Dad is in surgery.
Stephen is in surgery.
I hung up the phone, and the silence was deafening.
I don’t remember much else about that day, but I remember that I needed to get out of the house. I bundled up and walked out the back door. The ground and trees were white with snow, the air smelled of winter, and it was quiet.
So very quiet.
With all the faith I could muster, I prayed. I mean REALLY prayed. I didn’t know if my family was going to survive or not. I didn’t know if I would be reunited with them or sent to live with a foster family. The only thing I could do in that moment was to pray. And I admit it was a selfish prayer. I didn’t want to be an orphan. The thought of that scared me more than anything else, so I prayed. I asked God—more like begged and pleaded–to please take care of my family.
What was that? I heard something. It wasn’t an audible sound; I sensed it deep in my spirit. I distinctly heard a voice, but it wasn’t mine.
Was that God? Was He speaking to me?
I can’t explain it. I was alone at the time, so there was no one else around to hear anything. But I heard a voice. And suddenly, I had peace. I was still anxious to see my family, but I was no longer paralyzed with fear that I would never see them alive again. God had given me the peace that passes all understanding. When I cried out to Him, He provided grace, mercy, and comfort.
I felt His presence that day—January 11, 1997—and that was the day Jesus became my personal LORD and Savior.
To make a long story short, my parents and Stephen survived. They suffered many injuries, some that continue to affect them to this day, but they’re alive. The minivan they were in was completely totaled, as you can see in the picture below.
The day of “The Accident,” as my family has always called it, was one of the longest, most draining days of my life, but it was also the day I received a new life, and I began seeking God in a way I never had before. I wasn’t perfect, of course; I still faltered and stumbled, still caught myself preoccupied with material things. But at least I actually had a relationship with Jesus after that day, and as a dear pastor once taught me, you can’t approach the cross of Jesus Christ and stay the same.
That was the hardest trial I had ever faced, until March 1, 2013.
Sixteen years later, I faced a different test. My wife, Kristen, had developed a brain hemorrhage soon after giving birth to our son, Ian. Early in the morning on March 1, 2013, as she and I were both sleeping in her room in the ICU, her heart stopped. The commotion from the medical staff woke me, and a nurse instructed me to leave the room. Someone pushed the Code Blue button, and the intercom alerted the entire hospital.
As I waited outside, surrounded by dozens of people bustling from place to place, I felt so alone. In a way, I felt like that 13-year-old boy again, waiting to hear how his parents and brother were doing. Except this time I was the one at the hospital calling family and friends to let them know what was happening.
The doctor informed me that the staff were able to restart Kristen’s heart, but she was in critical condition. She had gone without oxygen for three minutes and was now in a coma. The doctor wouldn’t know for a couple of days how much brain damage there was. All we could do was wait to see if she demonstrated any brain activity.
On Friday, March 1, as Kristen lay motionless on the hospital bed, I wanted to ask God to make her well in this world so that we could remain together. I believed in my head that God could heal her, but something in my heart told me she might not make it. I decided to pray a different kind of prayer than I had when I was 13. I prayed that God’s will be done.
I couldn’t be a hypocrite.
I had been in church my whole life.
I believed in God and heaven.
I knew that if Kristen went to be with Jesus, that he would make her whole. I knew I couldn’t heal her afflictions, but I knew someone who could.
On that day, I bowed the knee to the LORD of heaven and earth and respected His will.
God impressed on my heart that He would heal her, just not in the way most people expected. Then He comforted me like He had 16 years before:
I don’t know why Kristen died when she did. I don’t know why God allowed my children to be without their mother. I’ll probably never have those answers. But that’s OK, because through it all I’ve learned to trust in Jesus, I’ve learned to trust in God, and I’ve learned to depend upon His Word.
And God always provides for my children and me. I don’t go to sleep worried about my kids. I don’t wake up worried about what they will eat or wear. I don’t worry about those things anymore. I just don’t.
Whenever people hear my story and see that I’m raising two kids while working on my history Ph.D., they always ask the same question:
“How do you do it?”
That’s when I tell them about Jesus, the one who experienced unimaginable pain and suffering on the cross, defeated death, and paid the penalty for my sins so that I can be with Him forever.
He’s my rock, my hope, my savior.
Jesus never quit on me. I’ll never quit on Jesus.