When events unfold that are traumatic, we have a tendency to quote biblically whether we belive or not. Every person I know, believer or non, has said the phrase ‘Thank God’. Some say it with conviction. Most say it as a phrase of common meaning, words irrelevant to the overall intention.
So when I receive a phone call from my 21-year-old daughter Friday night, crying, telling me that she and her fiancée were in a car crash, that she’s bleeding, that the van they were in got t-boned and rolled over 4 or 5 times but they are okay, the first phrase that comes to mind is ‘there, but for the grace of God’.
She’s battered and bruised, needed 7 stitches for a deep gash in her shoulder. And when we got to the hospital, a 90 minute drive which only seemed like 3 hours, and got to bring her home that night, how can you think anything other than ‘there, but for the grace of God’?
As I look at the pictures of the van, which ended up 90 feet off the road, roof collapsed, all the windows gone, back axel broken and think of her fiancée who escaped with a sprained shoulder and several gashes in his head that did not require stitches, can I believe anything other than ‘there, but for the grace of God’?
But the question that always remains for me is the same. Is there?
Do I look at the fact they survived, pretty much walking away, as divine intervention? And for every poor family, who I have a more profound understanding of now, who has lost someone in a similar incident, do I also think it was the hand of God, smiting their loved one from existence?
This is where my issues with belief always get blasted away. For every ‘miracle’ there are a just as many or more ‘not so lucky’ stories.
I’m human. I can’t help but be thankful. And there’s that part of me that still wonders. But I still think that if there is a higher power, it is far less involved in our individual lives and far more the scientist. Setting off universal events and watching them unfold.
I think we would all like to believe that someone is watching out for us. And I believe that we do have that. Each other. Whether it’s the person who makes sure the homeless have shelter on a frigid night or whether it’s a mom or dad, there for the child in a crisis. We all have somewhere to turn. We just have to want it.
Would I have felt this same questioning if the events of Friday had been far, and thankfully weren’t, worse? I expect the anger would have been directed at both the driver that hit them and at the God that wasn’t there. What God would do that? What God would pick one child to live and another to die? Anyone who throws the ‘we can’t understand God’s intentions’ is a fool.
I have all the reasons in the world to thank God today. But the luck, or rather the law that requires us to wear seatbelts, that allowed them to survive is just that. The multitude of miniscule minutiae that made this happen the way it did are just that. If they hadn’t got lost earlier. If the car that hit them had turned a half second sooner, the driver door would have crushed. If they had waited or turned a half second later, they might have missed them completely. If my daughter’s fiancée had been driving a kilometer or two faster or slower, it wouldn’t have happened. And on and on.
That I am blessed, thankful, prayerfully relieved does not make my ability to believe any easier for me. But I will say ‘thank God’. I will say ‘there but for the grace of…’. The question is how do you end that sentence with intention. Ultimately they were smart enough to be wearing seatbelts. That is what saved them. Other circumstances, that may not have mattered. Today, it was all that mattered.