My motorcycle accident.
As some of you know, on August 8th I was involved in a motorcycle accident. I was riding my Harley Davidson 1200XLC sporty home from an evening Bible study when a car suddenly and without warning turned left in front of me. My bike went under the driver’s car and I went flying about 20-25 feet, slid across both lanes of traffic, and I regained consciousness in the grass on the opposite side of the road from the crash.
As I was sliding across the road I couldn’t really feel anything, but I remember thinking very calmly and matter-a-factly that my time had come. I was simply waiting on the other shoe to drop. The Lord had called me to himself and I was merely curious how it would end. Naturally these thoughts took place in what felt like minutes, but was likely only mere seconds before I passed out.
When I came to, I laid in the grass looking up at the sky. I couldn’t move, which made me nervous. I could wiggle my toes, so I knew that was a good sign, but I didn’t know the full extent of my injuries. In the minutes that passed, I had remained calm and reserved despite my fears of serious injury. I was even able to dial 911, albeit with quite a bit of effort.
Eventually the state police, paramedics from the local fire department, and an ambulance were on the scene. As they snipped off my clothing and began to assess my injuries, all I could think about was my wife and my children. I answered each of their questions with a polite yes ma’am and no sir, thinking carefully about each response. Training I had gained from my previous careers began to take over and I felt like more apart of the response team than a patient.
And then, just as they were moving me to a board to carry me into the ambulance, it happened. I started to cry. One EMT politely encouraged me, “there’s no need to cry, hon” while another scolded her and told me, “you can cry all you want.” To be honest, it felt good to cry. The energy it was taking to be tough was exhausting, especially being literally exposed as I laid on the side of the road wearing nothing but my underwear and a helmet surrounded by rescue workers. And yet, I drew up the strength and I stopped crying. I didn’t want my discomposure to get in the way of my treatment.
Crying out to the Lord.
This got me to thinking about my relationship with the Lord. I think many people assume that pastors have amazing devotional and prayer lives. Many of the pastors I’ve known would confess differently. Sure, we are in the Bible and in prayer a lot, but it is often for the benefit of other people. We’ll spend hours preparing sermons and Bible studies, and will sometimes neglect our own spiritual edification. I can say that this has been true of me in the past.
When it comes to prayer, we may only approach the throne of God by means of the sacrifice of Jesus. The Creator of the Universe hears our prayers and yet we can speak with Him as casually as we do with our own loving parents. Does this familiarity rob us of the tremendous reality of what is happening when kneel in prayer? I’m sure it does to some extent. After all, how often do we recognize that God knows our worries and concerns before we even bring them before Him (Psalm 139:4)? In a very real sense, we are exposed and standing naked before the Lord. I can only speak for myself, but I sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that if I don’t reveal it, the Lord won’t know it (or won’t help me with it).
I thought about being on the side of the road in the grass trying not to cry. Despite my real exposure to those helping me, I was trying to stay tough and in control. Sure, they needed cogent answers from me to better treat me, so there’s some advantage to composure. However, in prayer, the Lord needs nothing from me. Looking back on my own prayer life, I began to recognize how even when I approached the Father in prayer, I still acted as though I had to be tough and in control. I acted as though God somehow needed my input to aid in my own “treatment.”
Reflecting on this over the past week, I realized that it’s not that I need to be more open and exposed before God, He already knows everything. Instead, I need to make peace with the fact that God already knows everything there is to know about me and yet, in His divine grace, loves me anyway. This experience taught me that as a child of God, loved by Him and known completely by Him, it’s perfectly OK to cry when in distress, to be vulnerable, to let go and simply be in the presence of God who has come to rescue me.
Hear my cry* for mercy as I call to you for help, as I lift up my hands toward your Most Holy Place. (Psalm 28:2)
*Not quite the same type of “cry” as I mention above, but how often were those shouts and cries to the Lord filled with tears?
In prayer, we engage in a simultaneously familiar and formal interaction with God. It’s familiar because we have free and open access to the Father through Jesus (Hebrews 4:16). It’s formal because we must never forget the majesty and holiness of our God (1 Chronicles 2:11-12).
What is your attitude when you come before the Lord in prayer? Has it occurred to you lately that prayer is for you and not for God? He certainly doesn’t need us to inform him about our joys and struggles.
What are your expectations in prayer? Are you like I have been: thinking you need to pray about something and then offer up to God your help as you search for your own answers? Or are you like I hope to be: open and vulnerable before God and completely open to whatever He has in store for my needs?
Let’s work on it together.
Our Father who art in heaven.
What does this mean? With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask their dear father. (Martin Luther, Small Catechism)