By Mackenzie Ryan
It could have been worse, I told myself. When someone asked if the car accident was “bad,” I replied, “bad enough.” An SUV rear ended me on the highway outside of Tampa. The doctor quickly diagnosed whiplash.
But I was in pain, more pain than I’d ever imagined.
I kept wishing and hoping the pain would go away if I just gave it enough time. I felt so broken and hurt. I wondered if I would ever heal, if I would ever be made whole again.
I gritted my teeth and went to work. I plastered on a smile each day. I pushed myself and told myself I could just tough it out.
I was determined to make it on my own.
The pain seemed to stretch before me and all around me with no end in sight. It became a burden I was struggling to carry.
One night, alone on the floor in my bedroom, I began to cry. I cried for the accident, I cried for my lack of understanding about why it happened and why me.
I cried for the pain I felt in the moment and for all the pain I imagined I would endure. I cried and cried until it seemed like I reached the end of myself and I didn’t have any more tears.
Suddenly I knew what to do. Without pausing, without even hesitating, I spoke out loud:
“God, I can’t do this alone. I need your help.”
I was overcome by a light, Jesus reaching down from the heavens and surrounding me in His warm embrace. It’s hard for me to describe that moment, except that I had a deep sense of peace.
The next day I went to the doctor. Before he could examine me I again broke into tears. I shared my hurt and pain, my frustration and fears.
I couldn’t stop crying, and he ordered MRIs, the tests I needed to finally put a diagnosis to what was wrong.
Then, before he left the room, the doctor looked me in the eye and asked if I was Christian.
I answered: “Yes, I am.”
It was a surreal moment. I’m still shocked he asked so directly. The doctor suggested a nearby church and I attended that Sunday. There I was introduced to a couple my age who had started a young adults group.
The first time I visited their home I was nervous. If they only knew me, I thought, they would kick me out. So I made oatmeal cookies to try to sweeten the deal. But on the drive over, the treats spilled across the passenger seat.
When I knocked, they opened the door and welcomed me. And they invited me back. Sometimes I was late or I didn’t go. I asked a lot of questions and shared my struggles. But that didn’t change how they received me.
Over time I saw the love of God in them and through them, and in how they treated me and others.
I started reading books about the Christian faith. One night I opened the Bible I received as a confirmation gift decades ago.
It was a long period of growth. I met people who made me doubt whether I belonged in church, and times when I doubted myself.
For months I was so angry at God I refused to speak with Him. And yet, every night, I would pray the “Our Father” as I fell asleep.
I don’t wish the pain I endured on anyone. I don’t know why it happened, or why I need to work through it today. I have remnants of the accident with me even years later.
What I do know is that I’m thankful to know the love of others, and to know the tender love of God.
Now, in my moments of doubt, my moments of struggle, I reach out and I pray.
Regardless of how I felt about God in the moment, regardless of what I am going through at the time, it doesn’t change God’s love for me.
God’s love is always there.
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