A course correction to a wayward life.
by Kathy Pierson
I moaned as the paramedics transferred me from their stretcher to the hospital bed. The ER staff converged upon me, cut away my clothes, draped a sheet over my shivering body, and whisked me away for X-rays.
“Lord,” I prayed, “is this horrible car accident Your way of stopping my downward spiritual spiral?”
Only God understood that prayer. Four years earlier, I’d given control of my life to the Lord. However, since that time, I took some wrong turns in my relationship with God and made several poor moral choices.
Although active in our church, I now led a hypocritical life of unfaithfulness to God and to my husband. Despite fear and horrible pain from the accident, I felt strangely at peace knowing God loved me enough to stop me from going any further.
That hot July day in 1975 had started so well. My husband and I stopped at my mom’s house to pick up a blanket before heading to the beach. We were only twenty years old and married a little over a year.
Gary sat behind the wheel of my 1964 Dodge. A gravel truck rumbled ahead in the other lane. Then, without warning, the ten-wheeler made a right turn in front of us.
“That truck!” Gary shouted.
I looked up from my lap and screamed. I threw my hands over my eyes just before we crashed into one of the large tires just behind the truck’s gas tank.
Neither of us had our seatbelts on.
I flew forward, both arms smashing into the dashboard. My face came up under the rearview mirror, and the bare metal tore deep into my forehead and upper lip. Propelled back again, my head landed against my husband’s shoulder.
Once the car stopped, my husband pulled off the bandana I wore and held it on the large gash across my forehead. I heard sirens and commotion around our car, but glass shards from the mirror made it impossible to open my eyes.
“I’m a paramedic,” a voice said. “I need to place this collar around your neck.” Someone held my head while Gary slid from the driver’s seat. “Let’s get her in the ambulance. We’ll assess her injuries on the way to the hospital.”
In the following hours, family members floated in and out of my room in the ER. When my mother and sister came in, they took one look at my swollen face and gasped.
Mom wiped tears from her eyes. “I heard sirens just after you left, but it never occurred to me they were for you.”
Although many attended to my physical injuries, no one could relieve the weight of my emotional pain. Later, when alone with my sister, I began to sob. She placed her hand on mine and wept with me. She had no idea I had been running hard from God and led a double life.
But as I lay broken in that bed, I knew I’d reached a turning point in my life. I needed to let God work on my heart just as the doctors worked on my body.
Before long, a fresh-out-of-college orthopedic surgeon arrived, clad in a bright Hawaiian shirt. “You’re one lucky young lady,” he said. “Your left arm is broken, as well as your right wrist and ring finger, but you have no internal injuries.”
Knowing luck had nothing to do with it, I thanked God for sparing me from anything more serious.
An over-the-elbow cast was applied to my left arm and a shorter one to the other. What a huge blessing to bend my right arm.
Cry for help
I was admitted to the hospital that evening. Before Gary left, he bent to kiss me goodbye. “I wish I was lying there instead of you,” he said with tears in his eyes. “I will be back first thing tomorrow morning. Try to get some sleep.”
I felt so helpless and alone. With tears streaming down my face, I cried out to the Lord. “Please forgive me. I’m so sorry for the way I’ve been living. Help me to live my life for You once again.”
Peace and joy swept over me as guilt and shame washed away. God immediately forgave me, drew me into His arms, and embraced my wayward soul.
The words of Psalm 51 expressed my heart so well: “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin” (vv. 1, 2).
A week after my eight-day hospital stay, over one hundred stitches were removed from my face. Although I still looked gruesome, I didn’t hide out at home. I went to church and ran errands with Gary as my energy allowed.
Waitresses, store clerks, friends, and strangers were curious how I broke both arms. What a joy to share how God had spared our lives.
Managing with plaster casts in summer heat, with no air conditioning, was miserable. But my time at home was well spent. During my recuperation, I wrote out and memorized two hundred and forty Bible verses.
In the following months, I underwent an operation on my left arm where tendons had become entangled in the shattered bone. After a bone graft, surgeries to insert (and later remove) a four-inch steel plate, and several weeks of physical therapy, I began to regain my strength.
I regained spiritual strength as well. Whenever I faced temptation to return to my former way of life, I remembered what God promised in 1 Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”
If I slipped into self-condemnation or shame, God comforted me with words from Romans 8:1: “There is therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. . . .”
Blessing from pain
Over forty years later, I see that God has answered my prayer in the hospital in ways I couldn’t have imagined. I am now a board-certified biblical counselor who leads women’s Bible studies. Because God healed our marriage, Gary and I work together in ministries at prisons and children’s homes.
And all those verses memorized during my recovery? I return to them continually when ministering to others. God knew how valuable those scriptures would be to me, just as He knew He would use this trial to refine me so I would come forth as gold. The Lord never wastes any of our experiences.
When I counsel people who have drifted far from God or endured trauma, I tell them, based on my life, that God is forgiving, good, and faithful to save. Even when it means saving us from ourselves.
Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version.