Those of you who know me on facebook or twitter will be aware by now that I was in a car accident on Monday. “The Beast,” as many affectionately call my dad’s car is in a ditch somewhere. While I’ve had my share of bumps and taps in a car while driving (I have both bumped a car in front of me at a stop sign and been bumped from behind at a light… and then there was the whole hitting of the cement pole thing that is a very long story) – and even was in another accident when we hit a deer on the interstate, this accident was very scary.
As I have had to recount the incident dozens of times – both in my own head and to insurance adjustors and to family and friends, I’m not necessarily going to do that again here. In part, because it all happened so quickly… or so slowly… I can’t tell if time was speeding by or slowed down and everything took place in half a second or half a minute. All I know is that I had changed lanes to avoid/give room to a vehicle that lost control and as that vehicle came back into my new lane, I hit the brakes and prayed that we wouldn’t collide.
As a pastor, I’ve thought about where God has been in all of this. It’s easy to both be absolutely grateful and absolutely pissed off. On the one hand, no one was really hurt in the accident and I am utterly thankful for that. It could have been worse – much worse. On the other hand, it could appear that all of those prayers for safe travel fell on deaf ears. I not only was in an accident, but I also couldn’t make it to my ordination interview. Really, God? Was that a part of your plan?
But then as a person of faith who wrestles with God quite often, I also find myself not wanting to do either of those things. I find myself not really wanting to place God in the situation at all. I chose to drive that day. The other driver also chose to drive. The wind changed directions, the road got icy, stuff happens and we collided. No where in that entire scenario does God have to intervene. There were choices made and actions taken and then there were appropriate consequences.
I guess it’s the battle between free will and determinism that is wrestling inside of me. I read the scriptures that says God knows the number of hairs on my head and that God won’t leave me or forsake me. But does that also mean that I think God will protect me from bad things happening my entire life? Not at all. Do I think that all actions have consequences – good and bad? Sure. Does that mean that God intentionally sends things into our lives to teach us lessons or to punish us? Not really.
I know that my little “adventure” on the interstate nowhere near compares to disasters and tragedies and heartache that others have felt in their lives and that we all will continue to experience in this life. At the root, however, I guess what I’m wrestling with here is a question of theodicy.
And the only answer I can come up with is that God was present in how we chose to respond to the situation. The woman who was in the other car and I sat down at a Perkins Restaurant over a pot of coffee and some pie and we talked. We got to know one another a little better and talked about our families and why we were both on the road that day. We cried together over what had happened. And we knew that despite it all, in spite of being far from home and not knowing what to do next, that we were not alone. We experienced table fellowship and allowed this yucky thing that happened to bring us closer together. We felt hope in the midst of despair.
If that’s not God… then I don’t know what is.