Hi Sweet Friends,
I’ve written to you before about my tendency to be fearful. So, it shouldn’t surprise you to hear that I am also a panicker. Make sure you read that correctly. Not a picnicker or nitpicker, though I tend to be those too, but a panicker: one who panics. I also have a tendency to make up words, but bear with me.
In all of my 58 years, I have never been the first on the scene of an accident, but it’s happened twice in the past three months. One was a scene I drove up on to find a little old lady stunned behind the steering wheel, staring into space. When she told me she was 41 years old, I knew we had a head injury. The other accident I watched happen. It was horrific with vans flipping and rolling. I’ve had bad dreams of not being able to call 911. My fingers fumbled as time stood still and I tried to tell the dispatcher where on I24 the wreck happened. I realized an hour later that we were on the Purchase Parkway. Thank God for other 911 callers. I feel like my directions were something like, “Just drive until you find me. We need ambulances. Headed east or west? I don’t know. I can’t see the sun. It’s cloudy. And hurry.” In both accidents, I ran across the road as fast as my 58-year-old varicosed-veined legs could carry me. Think Aunt Bea Taylor running in her Sunday coat. I can’t imagine the panicked look on my face. I was terrified of what I would find. The little old lady wasn’t badly injured. I held her hand and asked if I could pray with her, and in her stunned state she nodded and bowed her little head. I told her help was coming and I would stay with her and hold her hand. I could do nothing else for her. After she was taken away in the ambulance, I got my rain-soaked body back in the car and cried. I’m not sure why. There is something pitiful in those who are hurting and helpless, and something Christ-like in the kindness of strangers. The two always overwhelm me.
The other wreck had a man buried under heavy equipment. I watched a man pull and tug on it until the injured man was free. I surprised myself by begging God for help out loud and then praising Him when the man crawled out. He lay in the grass, and I ran to see if anyone else was in the van. We found three people bloody but fully conscious, talking to each other but trapped in the overturned van. None of the van occupants spoke English, which didn’t stop me from talking to them constantly. I promised them that help was coming. I could do nothing for them, but I shoved my hand through a hole in the broken windshield and grabbed the hand of a Spanish-speaking man who tried to pull away, but I kept hanging on. I held his hand and prayed silently until help came. When I had to get out of the way, I went to the man on the ground and put my coat over him and wiped his head and petted him like he was my five-year-old son. I didn’t notice when they were putting him in the ambulance that he still had my coat with my car keys and phone in the pockets. Imagine Aunt Bea screaming and running after an ambulance down the Parkway. That video would have made the Today Show. Fortunately, I caught them before that happened, but they had to unbuckle and unwrap the injured man to retrieve my coat. How many times can a person say, “I’m sorry”? For all of my running around and petting and holding, I wasn’t much help. I couldn’t rescue any of them; but I wanted all of the people in the accident to know that help was coming, and I would love them until it did. When I went back to my car I bawled like a baby. I needed a release of all my emotions.
As I relayed this story of the last wreck to my son, he told me that one thing he was taught as a leader at a camp full of children is to not panic in an emergency. When possible, walk, don’t run like Aunt Bea in her Sunday coat. Don’t scream and yell in a panicked voice, talk calmly and reassuringly. Don’t look like you’ve just ridden the Tower of Terror at Disney. You are the helper, the one giving hope and reassurance and speaking truth into a battlefield of fear, chaos, pain, and loss where our enemy wants us to dwell. I decided to handle my next wreck differently, now that I know that God apparently thinks I’m a great rescue worker. It also gave me serious thought as to how I handle the fearful and chaotic things going on in our lives right now. People are sick and dying, in our own families. Our comfort places have been taken away. We have felt abandoned. Our country’s leaders and our fellow countrymen are at war with one another. We wonder about safety and the future. What does the look on my face, the sound of my voice, and my words tell the hurting world? We, as the church and body of Christ, are the truth-tellers and life-givers in the world. We’re not the panickers and fearmongers, but the calm presence relying on the truth of God’s Word. We’re the hope-givers. Should we fight? Of course! With swords drawn and guns blazing; but against the enemy of our souls, not each other. Brothers and sisters in Christ are bullying each other, calling each other names, promising destruction, and questioning one another’s standing before God. I have best friends from college not speaking to one another after 40 years of friendship. I have heard criticism and condemnation from believers toward government leaders and pastors, and yet, I see these angry orators neither running for office not pastoring a church. I hear people telling us we are a this or that if we don’t say or do what they say we must. Please remember that only God gets to tell us who and what we are as found in His Word. Listen to the sound of your voice and ask a trusted friend about the look on your face. Who, exactly, are you angry at? Is it Satan who scripture tells us has come to steal, kill, and destroy in John 10:10? II Corinthians 10:5 tells us that we’re not fighting against flesh, but against every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God. Are you fighting against the great liar and deceiver, the hopeless enemy of our great God? If so, then count me in. You have my sword. But if your anger is kindled against your brothers, then I’m afraid you could be causing more harm than good. Passion and anger are not bad things; they can be great tools. But when given to the enemy, they will further his cause. II Corinthians 13 reminds us that no matter what I say or do, if not in love, it’s worthless. May the sound of my voice and the look on my face be that of Christ and not born from my own anger, frustration, fear, and lack of grace. Sean Niestrath in his January 1, article in The Paducah Sun said, “Courage has patience and gentleness with those whose courage fails.” Will you love me when my courage fails, or just when I don’t see it like you do? Will I love you? I pray so.
We, as the body of Christ, are to be the hope-givers of the world. We are entering the battle and holding the hand of the hurting and declaring, “Help is coming. I know you’re bloody and hurting. I can’t change your circumstances, but I will speak the truth of God’s Word to you and hold your hand while we wait for help to come.” And it will come. We are promised in Hebrews 13:5 that He will never leave or forsake us; in Romans 8:28 that He will work even this thing for good for us; in Romans 8:38 that nothing will separate us from His love; in Philippians 1:6 that He will complete the good work He started in us; in John 14:2 that He has prepared for us an eternal place with Him; in Matthew 12:21 that He is our hope; and in countless other promises that help is here and is coming.
So, the next time you come up on an emergency, if I’m not already there giving wrong directions and forcing people to hold my hand and praying out loud, remember that you are the comforter, the truth-teller, the calm one in the chaos, speaking life and being the very presence of Christ. We are His body in a world who needs Him. Even if we look like Aunt Bea.