“I am confident of this very thing, that God Who has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of the return of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6
I was raised in a Christian home. My Dad was the greatest man of God that I have ever known. He preached the Truth to many, and he taught it diligently to my sister and me.
My sister became a believer at a very early age, but I was not until I was around 30 years of age. My Dad was a wise man, and he knew that I was lost and struggling throughout my childhood and teenage years. He loved me faithfully, corrected me firmly when needed, and in his heart he never gave up hope that I would one day be a child of God. One day, he saw it come to pass before he passed from this life, and for this I am most thankful.
But on this day, a day when I as a troubled 19-year old had just three days before attempted to take my own life, I was about to find out that God meant to finish what He had begun in me. A flat out miracle had saved me from that suicide attempt, and all I knew right then was that God hadn’t allowed me to die. I didn’t yet know why, but I knew that I just needed to walk forward.
If you thought that satan’s attempts to “take me out” were finished, you’d be wrong, and on this morning three days later, I was headed to play a benefit concert at my old high school with several bandmates who had graduated from there, as well.
As I pulled out at 8 a.m. from my house to go to the auditorium where we would be playing, a little girl who was waiting for her school bus ran out into the middle of the street from behind a blind hedge. She turned to look me in the eye as I hit her, bounced off of the hood of my car, and I could hear her as she went underneath my car.
I had slammed on the brakes the second that I saw her, but there was no way to stop in time.
I threw the door to my car open and looked underneath my car and – there was no one there. I can’t remember a time when I have felt more terror in my life. Where was she? And then I heard a scream.
At the edge of the street just behind my car, having gone all the way under my car and out the back, facing and grasping a chain link fence, with essentially no skin on her back from her neck to her heels, was the little girl.
At that moment as I ran to her, an elderly couple who lived in the house called to me to bring her in to their house. They were calling the ambulance as they did, even as I reached the little girl.
I knew that carrying her would cause her unimaginable pain, but I knew that I had to help her. All the depression, and despair, and hopelessness of that past week disappeared in light of this poor little innocent girl’s horrendous pain.
I told her that everything was going to be OK, even as she screamed even louder in pain as I picked her up and carried her into the house, laying her down on a couch that the elderly couple had covered with blankets.
Then, not caring who could hear, I got down on my knees beside her, and I prayed, “God, I know that I’m a screw-up. I’m totally messed up, but please don’t let this little girl suffer because of me. You’ve got to help her. PLEASE HELP HER.”
Almost instantly, the little girl stopped crying, and it was just seconds later that the paramedics burst through the door. The police questioned me, the elderly couple told the police that they’d seen the whole thing and that there was nothing I could have done, and then the police told me to go on to the concert venue, because I couldn’t do anything else there.
All day long as we were setting up for the concert at the venue, I called the hospital over and over again, only to hear that “No, Michelle is still in surgery,” never knowing how she was doing, even as we took the stage at 8:15 pm that night to play the concert.
And that’s where my memory ended.
You see, for many years, I was haunted by the fact that I had never gone to see her at the hospital, and that I had never called to check on her again. But God was at work, working to complete what He’d begun in me.
Fast forward to 1994 as I was moving with my wife to Ohio, and we stopped in a Western state to visit my sister. One late night as she and I talked after everyone else had gone to bed, my sister said, “You know, I always knew that you’d eventually be OK, Ben. I always knew because of how you were that day with Michelle.”
The guilt and shame all came rushing back as I sought to compose my face in front of my sister. “What?” I said. “What do you mean?”
“Don’t you remember, Ben? That day a couple of months after the accident when I picked you up from your house to go to lunch? You came out to the car with this giant stuffed animal and a funny look on your face. You were very serious and you just said, ‘We need to stop somewhere first before we go to lunch.’”
We drove about a half block from your house, and pulled up in front of a trailer, Ben. You got out of the car and said, ‘I’ll be back in a couple of minutes.’ Don’t you remember, Ben? And you weren’t halfway to the front door when this little girl ran out of the door, and called ‘Ben, Ben!’ and hugged you. You sat on the front steps of that house and talked with her for half an hour. You loved her so much, Ben. And that’s when I knew that someday you would be OK.”
I looked at my sister and said, “Tell me again?” because though I couldn’t remember right then, I knew that my sister was telling me the Truth. What God had placed inside of me, how He had created me to be, had showed up even when I had no personal remembrance of it at that time.
It would be many years before I came to faith in Christ, but even way back then, and many times after, God was making sure that He was finishing what He had first begun in me.
It’s true of you, too, my friend. God has been WAY more involved than you know with keeping you alive until the day that you could recognize that you, just like me, are a sinner in need of mercy and grace, and to make the decision to accept Christ Jesus as your Savior and Lord.
Don’t wait. Answer God’s call upon your heart at this very moment to receive Christ or to re-commit your life to Him. Pray to Him today. Do it right now. Because all along, He’s been patiently, lovingly waiting to show you that you never need to feel unloved or alone again.
The writer is the bishop of The International Church Network worldwide, and co-director of Outside The Camp day camp in Shelby County.