Our lives are filled with mile markers.
We walk on this journey, one step in front of the other, hoping to make to a certain destination. Along the way we hit mile markers, marking the path, showing us how far we’ve walked.
This week I hit a mile marker. A ten-year mile marker.
If you know me well at all, you know I tend to put up certain walls. I only let people see certain things. Mainly things I can control. I’m getting better at letting those walls down, but ruins of some still stand.
Some things though I keep behind those ruins because I’m actually just not sure how people will react or even know what to do with the baggage I picked up on my journey.
I’ve decided recently that that baggage can air out a bit. It isn’t lovely. It’s even kind of awkward. But it’s mine.
This week will be the ten-year mile marker since I picked up a pretty big piece of baggage, and today I rummaged through it with a friend who helped me look at the pieces with more mature vision.
Ten years ago, on a foggy Wednesday morning, I was driving to school during my freshman year of college. I lived with my grandma at the time, you know, to save some money on college. The drive was very routine. I had done it for several months by now. I always had two choices of routes–either the main road which included too many traffic lights or the back roads which included less lights and more scenery. This particular morning I chose the back roads. I knew as soon as I turned down the first back road that perhaps I didn’t make the best decision since that morning the fog was pretty heavy. “No big deal,” I thought, “people will have their lights on and I’ll go slow anyway.”
I take the routine turns down the routine streets. I come to an intersection, stop at the stop sign, and await to turn left. I look both ways, don’t see a single car, and make my turn.
I hit something. A tree? No, that’s not right, unless the tree jumped into the road. What then? This doesn’t make any sense.
I sit in my car, shocked. Airbag deployed, feeling the sting of it on my arm, but otherwise unscathed. It takes me a few minutes to clear my mind enough to dial 911. I make the call. I tell them where I am. I try to explain what happened, but still so unsure. “I’ve hit something,” is all I can described.
I finally decide to get out. I see people. Someone comes to me. Asks me if I’m ok.
Then I see it.
Another car. A Ford Explorer from the looks of it, but I just see the underside of it. I walk towards it. Clearly it flipped onto it’s side. I walk closer. Someone is walking with me I think. Leading me away from the scene and out of the road.
Another sight I’ll never forget.
A lady pinned under the car. She’s not moving. She is silent.
I look away. Just one glance and it’s seared into my mind. I still see it so clearly.
The next few hours are a blur. Maybe only an hour. Time lost all effect on me. Only a few moments stand out. Calling my grandma. Calling my mom. “Hey. First, I’m ok, but….”
A police officer comes to me to ask questions. He’s kind and gentle. I look at him with one question in my eyes. He shakes his head.
That can only mean one thing.
It’s still hard to verbalize it, so I’ll leave it there.
There’s more that happens afterward, but this is the part where most people really don’t know what to say. I don’t even know what to say. For years I’ve never really quite known what to say.
After some time people ask questions about it. I answer them. I honestly don’t mind. I just hate making others feel awkward with looking at my baggage.
I’ve often thought, “Why God?” But not the “why God, if you’re so good, did THIS happen?” Or all of the myriad of ways to blame God but deep down you know the reason. I still honestly don’t know why. I’ve often tried to spiritualize it. Maybe I was walking away from God and this was a wake up call? No, that’s not right. I’ve made something an idol? No, that’s not it either. I’m not even sure I can stand up and make this big speech out of how God has used this to impact person A or person B or make some huge spiritual application. But maybe that wasn’t even the point. Maybe I just have this baggage to learn and hold onto the simpliest, yet hardest, of truths:
God is in control and God is good.
And isn’t that purpose of mile markers?
The mile markers, that when we pass them and look at them, show us that, yes, even here, God is still in control and God is still good? Nothing has changed that.
This baggage? It is awkward. I like to hide it behind the walls, even the ruins of the walls. I don’t want others to feel awkward. What will they think? What will they say? Will they know what to say?
But maybe, just maybe, I’ve been looking at baggage all wrong. It is awkward, yes, but it also is good. It reminds me of God and His grace. It reminds me I’m not alone in this struggle of life, because I can guess that you carry baggage too, and I’m sure you think it’s awkward too. It reminds me God is in control, though questions still abound.
This baggage also reminds me that I don’t have to carry it alone, but can lay it at the feet of Jesus. I may not know what to do with it, but He sure does.
Another grace of this baggage? I found out today, that the friend who helped me sort through it had prayed for the baggage carrier for years, though she never knew the carrier was.
Until today, when I opened it up.