It was a beautiful evening in October, one of those Friday nights I will never forget. I had the task of taking the guys to the movies on that night. Not sure how I ended up with this duty, being only sixteen years old at the boy’s home, but it gave me an opportunity to show some responsibility. Sometimes we drove station wagons, but that night I was driving the big van, a fifteen-passenger Dodge van.
Whiteville was eleven miles from the lake, a straight shot on highway 74-76. I had driven this route many times, taking the guys to the movies. On this particular Friday, I didn't care to stay and watch the movie, so I dropped the boys off and came back to the lake. Not sure why I came back but I did.
Around nine-thirty, I was getting ready to go back to Whiteville to pick up the guys. I knew the movie would end soon. On the way out the door, Bobby and Preston asked if they could ride with me. I said, "Sure, let me make a couple of banana sandwiches to carry with me." I used to love those things.
Heading up highway 74-76, I passed the graveyard and the one-hundred-acre pecan grove with Spanish moss hanging in the trees, which was kind of spooky at night. I passed the sandwich shop that was never open, and then I entered the small town of Hallsboro, right past our high school.
I had already eaten both sandwiches before getting to Hallsboro, and this was just four miles into the trip. When I passed the high school, I reached down for my seat belt. I had it in my hand and decided that I wasn't going to wear it. I never did, but I had picked it up and was about to latch it, but then said, "Forget it, I don't need that thing." I had glanced at my speedometer, and I was at the perfect speed of forty-five miles an hour. The police were never really bad in that area. I just remember being at that speed and looking at the fingerprinted glass on the instrument panel.
Approaching the intersection of state road 1001 and highway 74-76, everything was great. Then, out of nowhere, a car appeared in my windshield. Everything went into slow motion, almost like a dream. The van went into a tumble after hitting a car that had run the stop sign.
I was ejected out of the tumbling van through the windshield, and I found myself about one-hundred feet from the wreckage. I stood up and wondered into the highway and was making my way down to the hardware store. My body was covered in blood, and I was shaking violently. My destination seemed so far away. I looked over at the van, which was now across the road, and saw people fighting. I didn't know what had happened to Preston or Bobby. I had my eyes fixed on that hardware store. There I felt the arms of a friend come around me, giving me his coat. He told me everything was going to be okay. I was slipping into shock moment by moment. My body was numb to the pain.
The ambulance had arrived, and they ushered me off to the hospital in Whiteville. There they checked me out, and I gave up my banana sandwiches I had eaten earlier. My body realized the pain I was in. They decided to transfer me to Wilmington because my skull was crushed in one place, and I had internal bleeding.
I would spend the next few weeks in the hospital. My face and body were scarred from the wreck. I found out that Preston had taken several hundred stitches, and Bobby had a broken leg. Bobby was also beaten up at the wreck by the family of the girl who was riding in the car I had hit. They didn't know what had happened or whose fault it was. All they knew was their sister was dead. My soul was now scarred by the news of her death. Her brother was in my graduating class. My return to school was extremely difficult, but my friends made it easier. Many of whom thought I had died that night.
After many years, I still have the scars of this accident; my head is still numb, and my jaw still pops when I talk sometimes. The real scars are much deeper. They are the ones that make me wonder what if? I wonder what if I had left a second or two later? What if I had not made those sandwiches? What if I had reached down and put my seat belt on? Even though I didn't know Jesus Christ at that time, I believe in the total sovereignty of God. God knew then and still knows today what will come my way. He is and always has been in control of life. There are no accidents with God! Do you believe in the sovereignty of God? Who is in control? When trouble is in the air, who do you turn to? When the still voice in your heart says, "Buckle up. Trouble is on the way. Be ready," what is your response?
I didn't listen. I threw it back and said, "I don't need this thing." Years have gone by now, and I understand the providential will of God. Now that I know Jesus Christ, I recognize His still voice.
Sometimes I listen and sometimes I don't. He reminds me by saying, "Didn't I tell you to buckle up?" Life isn't an easy road, but it can be a road of wondrous journeys and many blessings. One of the greatest joys of my life is the relationships God has allowed me to have with many of you. God has used you to walk with me in trials and in glory. The what ifs in life belong to God. Is there a what if in your life? Give it to the sovereign God who created all things.
1 Peter 1:18-21 (MSG)
“Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God. It cost God plenty to get you out of that dead-end, empty-headed life you grew up in. He paid with Christ's sacred blood, you know. He died like an unblemished, sacrificial lamb. And this was no afterthought. Even though it has only lately—at the end of the ages—become public knowledge, God always knew he was going to do this for you. It's because of this sacrificed Messiah, whom God then raised from the dead and glorified, that you trust God, that you know you have a future in God.”