Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Accident or Sovereignty?

The car seemed to be hitting every bump in the road, as my wife Lacy jammed the accelerator to the floor. With every swerve in the highway her prayers got louder, “Oh, Lord please don’t let him die!” I stared at the roof of the car and prayed too. “Jesus, I’m your servant and if you wish to take me home now, I totally trust You!”

As I prayed, the blood was pumping from my chest, mixing with the mud that covered my shirt. I was pressing down hard on the one inch hole, trying to stop the rush of red wetness.

Would we make it to the hospital before I passed out from the bleeding? I wasn’t sure.

It all started Saturday morning, August the third. I had a lot of work to do in the yard of our country home near Clifton, Texas. By noon the air was sweltering with heat and the vegetation in the garden was as dry as Post Toasties. Trying to clean up some old brush, I had started burning a pile of dead tree limbs. Because of the arid conditions, I had inadvertently started a small grass fire which required some urgent attention with the water hose.

Nearly blind with sweat in my eyes, and tugging a forty yard section of hose, I started over a small fence when suddenly I lost my balance. An iron stake had been driven in the ground to hold up plants. Now plunging headlong, and face first, I could see that three foot long rusty rod coming up at me! Piercing the air, I could hear my own screams as the one inch round steel tip drove deep into my chest. Bent over and kneeling in the mud, impaled and in excruciating pain, I had to do something fast.

Since I couldn’t budge the rod from the ground, I clutched it as tightly as I could and tugged with what strength I had left. Again more horrible pain followed but the spike of iron was now free from my chest. With blood pouring out I ran to the car, calling for Lacy to start for the hospital. Though it was only about ten minutes away, I reasoned I could be unconscious within minutes if vital veins or arteries were cut.

Not waiting for the attendants to wheel out a stretcher, I walked into the emergency operating room and fell on the table. I had made it! After taking several x-rays, the doctor concluded I was “lucky” that nothing was damaged. A few inches up or down, left or right, the lungs could have been pierced or the heart punctured. By the way, he added, the bar had gone at least five inches deep!

Sometimes in moments like this, our theology goes right out the window. Things are happening too fast, and with the way we feel about such an event, we can even argue it is simply an “accident,” a “happen-stance,” just a “fateful” moment. But gazing up at the operating room lights, I had to reach up with heart and soul and claim what I have taught others for the past thirty years.

And that is, my God is not passive. He is not helpless nor caught off guard. He is not impotent nor are His plans for me, my life and my death, thwarted. If I can teach the providence of God, I must live the same.

Stretched out on my back on that cold surgical table, I forced myself to rehearse all the verses I could remember about the sovereignty of my Lord and Master. I had no guarantees from my God for surviving through that Saturday. He could have designed it whereby that was the day and hour I would be going home! Could I put my death in His hand and trust Him or must He spare me simply because I wanted to live?

Then I remembered the words of James, “you should say, ‘if the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’” If the Lord wills! And again I quoted to myself Job, “my days are determined, God has set the limits of my months so that I cannot go beyond.”

And as I felt the puncture of the needles and the tug of the stitches closing the wound in my chest, I applied the words of David to me in a most personal way: “My days were ordained before even one of them had come along.” Finally, I claimed for myself from the apostle Paul my favorite verse. Though it is about king David, for that hour Saturday morning, it was mine: “After I have served the purpose of God in my generation, I will [someday] fall asleep, and will be laid among my fathers.”

Why did God allow such an experience? I will never know for sure this side of heaven, but I can give some possible reasons. 1. To help me again realize, and teach to others, how precious life really is. But more. 2. That I am really His servant and He may do with me as He pleases. 3. As well, to remind me of my own mortality.

Sometimes we feel we are going to live in this body here on earth forever. We will not! “Our citizenship indeed is in heaven, from which also, we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform this body of humiliation into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself” (Phil. 3:20-21)

Dr. Mal Couch
August 1996