After several semesters away, I have been blessed to finally return to Virginia Tech full-time this past spring. In fact, God’s faithfulness in building me as a man and allowing me to return has been an awesome journey and is a great story itself. But, I would like to focus on more recent experiences through which God has taught me to bring all things before Him and to trust in His plan and provision during times of fear, suffering, or confusion.
In my excitement for returning to Tech, I was eager to become involved in as much as possible – and it did not take long for me to completely fill my schedule. In general, I have little interest in being an unproductive person and want to constantly be actively engaged in something. This is good in a lot of ways, but unfortunately I often overload myself.
I knew balancing my load was becoming a problem because many nights I wouldn’t get into bed before 3.00a, then wake up at 6.00a to do it all again (numerous nights were without sleep). I also knew my effectiveness was sliding in some of areas. However, as I reviewed my list of responsibilities, it was impossible to identify what could be unimportant; I decided to man up and keep going.
This all finally caught up to me. On one of the last mornings in April, I was driving to work and fell asleep at the wheel (surprise, Chris, your life is unhealthy). I opened my eyes and realized I was in the center median of 460W, barreling through the soggy grass at about 65 mph. I swerved back onto the road to avoid a VDOT sign, but the ground was saturated due to the previous night’s thunderstorms and tornados, and the truck went sideways, as if on ice. Looking back, this is probably all that saved me from barrel rolling down the road right then. Nonetheless, as the truck continued sliding, I saw I was moving straight towards an embankment – about a 20’ drop to the ground below. That’s not where you want to be heading at 50-60 mph with no control of your vehicle.
As I took off from the embankment, the vehicle went airborne for about 3 seconds and started heading nose-first for the ground: plenty of time for me to think, “Well, this is it.” To truly believe that is fairly uncomfortable, but I did have an awkward apathy about what might happen – hopefully, that was faith. Seeing the ground coming toward me, I closed my eyes and braced for impact. I still can’t quite remember the impact itself, I just know it was more like being set down than colliding head-first into the ground. I opened my eyes in confusion, unbuckled my seatbelt, and walked away without a scratch. The truck, of course, was totaled.
I want to make a few brief side notes before continuing. I had a lot of heartburn about how I would make my truck payment if I were awarded the Rotary scholarship I applied for and moved to Ghana for a year. Also, I had been in a lot of conversation and prayer recently on whether or not my job in Giles County was best for me at the time because the 40 minute drive and my gas-guzzling truck was eating my paycheck alive. Lastly, I drove illegally with no insurance for two years and never really cared to correct that. Two weeks before the accident, I felt a terrible weight of guilt and began a new full coverage policy on my truck. Sweet coincidence.
To be completely honest, I never got worked up about the accident. I did break down briefly after getting out of the car because as I walked around the battered vehicle, I faintly understood the level of love that had allowed me to walk away completely unharmed. Perhaps this is why I never worried about what would happen next. Instead, I immediately began to pray for the Lord’s guidance and direction. I knew and believed that God would somehow use this experience. I had not yet even made the first insurance payment, so I was unsure of whether they would take care of me. Still, I took everything to God and trusted in His provision.
The insurance company paid off my loan and gave me enough money to purchase a new vehicle outright. I no longer have that truck payment. Also, the new ride gets 30 mpg, compared to the truck’s lousy 17. And what’s more, the couple from whom I purchased the new vehicle are an amazing brother and sister in Christ Jesus. In my short time with them, they have inspired me in many ways to remain faithful and loving. They are even going to connect me with their worship leader in Salem who is also a songwriter.
It’s a little funny and a little sad how an event like this can open my eyes and help me to feel the true love of God, when every day I should readily carry that same feeling in the knowledge of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. But, I’m weak and God knows how to open my eyes. As a result, I’ve had an amazing experience by which I have learned a very important lesson: seek and trust God’s Will in all circumstances. In fact, this past year, especially the past few weeks, has been a season of God teaching me to bring all things before Him: sufferings, doubts, questions about the future, big decisions, questions and desires about relationships, fears, etc. And the most important part of this lesson: TRUST in His love and provision (Philippians 4:6-7, Romans 8:28).
As for the overloaded schedule, the wreck has initiated a lot of thought about how I live my life. I believe packing my schedule can sometimes be an effort of self-justification. I truly feel it is important to be actively engaged in pouring love into the world and leveraging our own blessings to that end. However, I have to be honest with myself as I look at that schedule and admit there isn’t a whole lot of time for sitting quietly with God. Reading the Word as I fall asleep is a nice try, but it’s no way to truly honor the Lord. Also, am I even focusing on glorifying God through all of those activities or am I trying to fill myself up instead of allowing Jesus to do that? And what about spending time and emotion on the people around me that God has put in my life for a reason? No one who runs from sun up to the next sun up without stopping is giving God the attention He demands and deserves, nor are they staying in tune with the lives of those around them. I have concluded that not everything I want to do with my life has to be done yesterday and all at once. In addition to the above lesson, I have learned that it is important – no, required – that we live manageable lives that are first built upon intentional relationships with Jesus and the people around us (Luke 10:38-42).
– Chris Cooke