What! What is this? I see the figure of a man! In a flash my mind vainly attempted to reconcile the impossible image of something ominously out of place, within inches of my windshield, directly in front of my field of view.
Suddenly locked in slow motion, as time stood still, I became incredulously aware that a man’s head had just violently smashed through my car’s windshield from outside my vehicle, showering me with hundreds of tiny shards of glass.
Mesmerized, I observed his body in freeze-frame slow-motion brutally bounce off my car’s front bumper, hood, and then windshield. He rotated slightly and propelled into the air and landed straight back onto the very street on which he was walking less than three seconds before. He remained face-down and still, stretched out right in front of my vehicle’s path. With immediate adrenaline-augmented reflexes I vigorously jerked my steering-wheel and swerved to avoid running over his still body in the very place he landed.
Peering through my now spider-web cracked windshield I somehow brought the vehicle to an abrupt stop, jumped out of my car, and dashed back to the still form laying face-down and motionless in the middle of the darkened street. Blood continued to pour from his mangled face and what appeared to be a multiple-compound fractured leg.
“No! God! Help us! Save Him! Save Him! Please, God! Help!” I screamed for help, straining my voice so vigorously in those brief moments that I lost my voice and would be unable to speak in more than a barely audible whisper for more than two weeks! As I approached the motionless, bleeding form of a man, I strained my eyes to observe any signs of life. Much to my dismay I saw no movement—not breathing— I feared! As I knelt down next to him and saw the small drops of blood already congealing and hanging from his face like tiny stalagmites, I suddenly heard him snoring and was struck by an overwhelming odor of alcohol. “Thank You, God! He’s alive!” I rejoiced in my raspy, strained voice.
In was a Wednesday evening; therefore, as music director at our off-base church on Okinawa, Japan, I was returning home after rehearsal when this pedestrian suddenly stumbled off the curb into the street and in front of my vehicle. The kinetic energy of my car traveling at approximately 55 kilometers per hour shattered his left leg in several places. Although he also suffered intracranial hemorrhaging, within eight days a CT-scan showed the dangerous intracranial hemorrhaging had subsided, and the doctors began to hope for his survival and eventual recovery.
Then began a series of six major surgical repairs wherein the orthopedic surgeons sought to reconstruct his shattered leg. The many wounds on his face and head healed quickly and surprisingly well. The first four months after the accident the US government relinquished jurisdiction over me to the Japanese government judicial system. I was placed on “administrative hold” and was therefore not allowed to leave the island of Okinawa for any reason. The Japanese government wanted to be sure I would be available to stand trial for manslaughter—if the victim perished during his long recovery hospitalization. Meanwhile, from the very week of the accident and continuing for the next year and a half I visited Teruya-san weekly, often with my precious small children of whom he demonstrated a great fondness. We grew to be friends—amazing considering my limited Japanese and his lack of understanding English.
During his extended hospitalization, not only did his alcohol-damaged liver recover fully but also with the help of a Japanese translator, I was able to communicate the grace and love of God to this dear man. During the final month of our weekly visits, Teruya-san chose to embrace and place his faith and trust in Jesus Christ for eternal life! Contrary to the pessimistic forecasts of the doctors, Teruya-san amazed them by learning to walk again, albeit with a noticeable limp.
Although the circumstances of our initial meeting were ominously out of place and unwelcome, our eventual friendship conquered and crossed the cultural boundaries that so often separate. Although our tragic, unexpected encounter may have begun with devastating pain, it ended with a friendship that would likely never have occurred had we not met that fateful night.
All of us encounter trouble and inconveniences in our lives. Our choice: to consider them as irritating, unacceptable annoyances and learn nothing from them, or to consider the hardships and difficulties we encounter as discipline and thereby learn valuable lessons that can enrich our lives.
I encourage you to consider challenges as adventures and learning opportunities. The Bible encourages to “Endure trials for the sake of discipline…” (Hebrews 12:7a, NRSV).
If you consider hardships as discipline, when areas of your life seem out of place, you’ll learn to overcome and eventually the out-of-place item will make sense.