When Life Runs You Over

When I was a kid, I liked taking risks. Well, sometimes I liked taking risks. Other times, I was the furthest thing from a risk-taker there could be. I really liked following rules and having things go the way they were planned to, but I guess that admiration for order faded away when I got older. Still, I always enjoyed a few risks from time to time.

My family and I lived in Brussels, Belgium, for a while in my Elementary school years, and one time, my buddy and I decided it’d be a good idea to play a game called Chicken. For those of you who don’t know, Chicken is a game usually played by someone jumping into the street in front of a speeding car and seeing who would get out of the way first: the car or the person. My buddy and I were clearly not dumb enough to play that version of the game, but the concept was enticing to us. So, we came up with our own version, consisting of one of us on a bike peddling full speed at the other. Helmets, of course, were optional; so we opted out of those to increase the risk factor. Every time, one of us would move out of the way at the last second and avoid collision. To us, it was absolutely brilliant. We played a few rounds and our hypothesis was confirmed: best game ever. After a while, I was standing in the street and my buddy was coming straight at me. Every time we’d played, one of us would jump or turn in the other direction at the very last second, but it was never determined beforehand who it would be; one of us just moved. This time, I was certain he was going to move at the last second- and he was also certain that I was going to move at the last second. Before I knew it, I was flat on my back with tire marks straight down my body, no kidding. I had been slammed into the ground and run completely over by my buddy. I don’t know how I reacted as a kid, but nowadays I probably would’ve just laughed about it and gotten back up. My guess, however, is that I probably cried a ton when it happened.

Sometimes, this is exactly how life hits us. One day we’re doing fine, and the next day Jesus knocks us down with something crazy. Like when my family and I took a vacation to Orlando, and my Dad unexpectedly ended up in the hospital with three blood clots. Or, when my Dad was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in the first place. I mean, no one could’ve seen that coming. Except God, right?

There’s something a friend told me once that I think about when life hits me like a crazy biker. My buddy said, “Has it ever occurred to you that nothing has ever suddenly occurred to God?” That’s a pretty comforting thought, right? On our worst days, when life throws the worst trainwrecks at us, God isn’t surprised or caught off guard. The thing about serving the Creator of the Universe is that He’s always one step ahead of us. In theory, that should be super comforting. That thought alone should be able to put all our worries to rest for good. But honestly, a lot of times it just doesn’t. And more often than I like to admit, I doubt God, and I doubt His plan.

Have you ever put together an elaborate puzzle only to find that you’re missing a few pieces at the very end? I feel like life experiences and lessons sometimes look like puzzle pieces, and God is piecing together something beautiful and intricate with them. And He is, for sure. But some days I wake up, and it’s like that kid ran me over on his bike again, and I can’t help but ask God where in the world stage 4 cancer fits into my puzzle-piece World. To me, it looks like there must be pieces missing, something I can’t see yet. I mean, that picture seemed like it was looking pretty good already. I like writing encouraging stuff about God and how much His love rocks, but I don’t feel like I’m super loved all the time, and some days I’m just confused about life. I think we all feel that way from time to time. But it’s important to continue trusting in the Lord; that’s what faith is all about.

There is something slightly futile in questioning the Creator of the Universe. He knows exactly what He’s doing. In the book of Romans, Paul asks his friends to remind themselves that we are all mere humans, and we have no right to question God. Paul says that humans are like unfinished pieces of clay, and we are asking the Potter, our Creator, what he’s doing to us.

Honestly, the best thing about getting hit by a bike though was that it sucked, so I learned my lesson. And it hurt a lot, and I learned to fear speeding objects and standing in the middle of the road on a whim. It seems like a normal guy wouldn’t need to be taught that first to understand the concept. I do that kind of thing all the time. I am not joking when I tell you that a few years after being run over by a bike, I decided to play Chicken again, and I got run over by a bike in the exact same way. Seriously; I am an idiot.

God knows that we’re really stubborn and don’t learn well. But how often do we realize our own stubbornness? How often, when we’re in the midst of a storm, can we look around and see what God’s teaching us? How often can we engrave a lesson on our hearts before making the same mistake twice?

Here’s a question I can’t take lightly: what am I learning from my Dad’s cancer that I can engrave into my heart long-term? Maybe it’s that life has to be lived to the fullest while we have the chance, or maybe I’m learning that looking to God in the hard times makes it way easier in the good times. Or possibly I’m just learning to lean hard into God, and not on my own understanding. Are there storms in your life you can learn from permanently, so you don’t have to be run over by a crazy bike again? In case you were wondering, after the second time I lost to a bike, I declared the game of Chicken my permanent enemy, and I won’t try it anytime soon.

I’ll leave you with this: everything in life happens for a reason. God has a perfect plan for us, and each broken way and every beautiful moment has a purpose. I don’t know most of the reasons for stuff happening, but neither you nor I are in a place to question our great Potter. So, try to learn what God’s teaching you in the moment. Try to trust in the One who knows you inside and out, and have confidence that He is in control.

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Knives & Grace

You and I are both broken, worn and beat-up from sin, torn and tattered from heartbreak and rejection and hurt. We’re all pretty broken people, stumbling around looking for love in all the wrong places. Jesus knows this and loves us even more because of our brokenness; that’s why he came to save us in the first place.

The crazy thing is, God knows us fully, and knows all of our sin, and loves us the exact same. Psalm 139 says “Before a word is on my tongue, You know it completely,” and “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?” God knows us deeply, completely, and loves us recklessly. He sees all our pain and sin and takes us anyway.

One time, I found myself in Dubai, in the line to get through security at the airport. After a 10-hour flight from Johannesburg, I was beat up and ready to be home. Back in Johannesburg, just before we left for the airport, the house I was staying in had a controlled power-outage, something critical to save energy in South Africa. So, we had to hastily throw our stuff together while the lights were still on and hit the road before our house lost power, giving us 20 minutes to pick two weeks worth of gear. I packed my suitcase to it’s limits and stuffed my backpack with whatever didn’t fit in the suitcase and jumped in the car. Little did I know that among the things crammed in my backpack were two very large knives. Little did I know, that is, until my bag set off an alarm in security in Dubai. Having gotten past security in Johannesburg without any issues, I figured the alarm meant nothing. I stepped aside, and an Arabic woman calmly searched through my backpack, and one-by-one, slowly pulled out these two huge pocket knives. I was shocked that I had gotten all the way to Dubai with those things, but I tried to play it cool anyway. “Oh oops, just throw those away. I don’t really need them I guess,” was all I said. The woman searching my bag stared at me solemnly, and then shouted something in a foreign language across the room. It sounded harsh and scary, and I guessed that she had probably shouted something like “Get the taser, we’ve got a knife-terrorist on our hands!” Within a minute, I was swarmed by a dozen middle-eastern safety personnel. I tried to stay calm, but incoherent harsh Arabic was being flung back and forth, and I was caught in the middle of it all, trying to act like everything was okay. Pictures of my passport were taken, and I was strictly told not to return to Dubai anytime soon. And, worst of all, they kept the knives. But, nevertheless, they let me into their country. I walked through those airport gates as a free, kniveless man, and I eventually made it safely back to the States.

Like those the hidden knives in my bags, we’ve all got hidden brokenness and sin in our stories. And just like those security guards, God takes us in anyway. Like me in Dubai, we try to act like it’s all okay, maybe we cover the brokenness and tuck it away, so it can’t see the light of day. Unlike those security guards though, Jesus looks at our brokenness and turns it into something awesome. He doesn’t want us to hide it, He wants us to grow from it and learn from mistakes. It’s like if those security guards had taken my knives and carved a sweet statue with them, and then given it to me as a free gift, except way better. It doesn’t really make sense sometimes either- God’s grace is pretty incomprehensible. To me, it seems wild that the Creator of the Universe takes our imperfections and makes us whole again, it seems insane that He accepts us no matter what.

That’s the awesome thing about Jesus. His death on the cross and resurrection wasn’t limited to just people who hadn’t done that much wrong, or to people who weren’t that broken. His gift of new life is for everyone, and those of us who are broken- which is all of us- need it even more. In Mark 2:17, Jesus says “I didn’t come to help the righteous, but the sinners. For it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” You and I are both broken sinners, and Jesus came for us.

2 Corinthians 5:16 says “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Jesus gives us new life, He gives us freedom from sin that we desperately need. For those of us who have accepted his gift; live like it. Begin each day knowing that you’re a new creation, that Jesus has given you new life and you don’t need to worry about the weight of the world. You’ve got nothing to prove and nothing to lose. For those of you who haven’t yet, you can accept it anytime. It’s never too late, you’re never too far gone for God’s grace.

Think about the knives in your life, the stuff you tuck away and try to ignore. For me, sometimes that’s my selfishness or mistakes from my past. The God of the Universe sees that stuff and loves you regardless. He wants to use you and me despite our brokenness, He wants to fix stuff like our selfishness and teach us through mistakes, and it’s awesome and unbelievable. He’ll take every hidden knife, and we’ll never be the same.