Today I almost died.
I realize how dramatic that sounds. As if that statement was only some lame stab at attention. Where once you gasp I whip back the curtain to reveal the opposite side of the story and how really death loomed no closer than any other typical day. But this isn’t one of those occasions. No smoke and mirrors. No magic. It’s what happened. Today, I almost died.
Time. It seemed to suspend while racing ahead all at once. There I was dipping and rising, bending and turning like I do nearly everyday on the roadways around my home. We live in beautiful hill country. It just comes with the territory.
This particular portion of the main road, immediately after a wide span of houses, is flanked on each side with tall trees, overgrown brush and yet another hill. There, tucked behind nature’s expanse opposite the embankment sits a dirt road which intersects the main highway. All but hidden from view. A driver has but seconds to respond should a vehicle emerge but the road is scarcely traveled and even so, it’s rare indeed to see another motorist crossing the highway there.
Today, however, just before my black SUV crested the hill into his line of sight, a semi truck driver pulled up to that blind corner. He must have been lost. That’s all I can figure. He looked my direction, then the other, I’m sure. But while his head was still turned, he pulled his foot from the clutch and eased on the gas to engage the large engine into motion and cross my lane of traffic. He swung back his gaze just in time for our eyes to meet as my vehicle rounded the curve and began the short descent aimed directly at his.
Time. I’ve relived this moment now a hundred times over. It still pauses. Each time it moves forward in slow rhythm, frame by frame just as it did in those seconds.
I saw his tires lurch forward. I saw him spin the large steering wheel to point the outfit my direction before he looked up to see me coming. I heard my own voice shout “No” as if it were someone else’s. I saw papers and shopping bags and books in the front seat begin to fly towards the dash as my brakes tried to halt all forward momentum of my vehicle.
Almost like a dream I could see the details. Like an out-of-body experience even while I watched the scene play out from behind pedals. I saw the middle-aged man’s tousled brown hair in the driver’s seat. Sunlight as it beamed off the large stainless steel tank on the trailer behind the red cabbed truck.
Then, as if my mind were in a time zone all its own, the clock sped up. I saw my car plow headlong into the side of that steel tank and twist beneath the forces colliding. Metal bending metal. My life caught in a whisper between now and eternity. There, with my foot on the brake and my arm outstretched to keep things righted in the front seat the inevitable laid out in front of me. I knew it was coming. In rapid succession I saw what would happen. Sounds all but dissipated around me.
Yet, then, as if everything slammed back into the present, I watched the outcome transformed. Before my eyes I watched the entire rig jolt in a violent attempt to stop. Somehow it came to rest halfway into my lane even as it still shuddered from the sudden brake. The driver flopped helpless against the momentum nearly hitting his head on the steering wheel. When he gained control, bewilderment was etched into the expression he wore.
I was able to swerve into the opposite lane with no oncoming traffic and miss the rig altogether. And like that, it was as if nothing happened. My kids chattered in the backseat like always. They asked me questions about what the rest of the day held as I drove the last few miles back to the house.
I backed the car in the garage and killed the engine. The door closed and the kids skipped into the house. But I sat. Wide-eyed. Amazed. Because though I’ve had close calls before, I’ve never known with such clarity that God altered time to save my life.
Open eyes. That’s what I’ve been praying for: open eyes. And open eyes is exactly how God answered. He pulled back the curtain of time to show me so clearly this moment I could have, should have, left my family for the other side of eternity but God. Stepped. In.
Memory will allow this scene to fade, melting into the sea of countless other segments that make up my hours and days. I can feel the slow fade beginning already. But what I cannot let go of is this rush of elated peace and joy that gives me a new sense of awe over God’s story. How He saved my life. I cannot allow time to lull me back to sleep and miss the frames that one by one reveal the plot line and the heart of the Storyteller Himself. Today, I caught just a glimpse. Just five seconds of a heightened sixth sense; an awareness of the eternal hand of God active in my physical realm. Today, I saw God. Move.
Oh Lord, that that would stay with me always.
And oh friend, that you would know it too.