My daughter and I were in a minor accident this past Sunday on our way home from church. It happened at an intersection we drive through several times a week, and as we passed it last night I took a deep breath and told her, “All right! We did it!”
She was understandably confused. The thing is, I tend to get superstitious about things like that. I don’t necessarily think another accident will happen there just because it happened once, but I do feel anxious as we pass that spot in the road. I tried to explain it to my daughter as she munched carrot sticks in the back seat; as I did, I remembered something from years ago that I hadn’t thought about since then.
I was in my first car accident (in which I was the driver) when I was 20. Leaving my first day of work as a social work intern, in one of those borderline-sketchy neighborhoods, a moving truck pulled out in front of me. Unable to stop, I hit him between his right front tire and his fender. The damage to my car was minimal and I wasn’t injured, but it shook me up to the extent that I didn’t want to drive again.
Talking with my dad about it that night, I asked if he wouldn’t mind driving me to work the next day and for awhile, just until I felt “a little more comfortable” with being behind the wheel. In great wisdom, my dad didn’t bite. Instead, he handed me my keys and sent me to the store to buy toilet paper.
And I don’t think I’ll ever forget his words: “You’ve gotta get back on the horse.”
Though I didn’t want to go to the store, and probably could have gotten a ticket for driving below the minimum speed on the way there, that run to the store was critically important. That run to the store broke the hold that fear could have held on me. What seemed like harsh parenting at the time proved to be the some of the best advice I have ever gotten.
The last time I had been behind the wheel, I had been in an accident. But it didn’t happen the next time. Or the time after that, as I drove to work the next morning and passed the skid marks I had left on the road the previous afternoon. It didn’t even happen again that afternoon.
At the time, making me “get back on the horse” seemed like a cruel way for my dad to help me cope with something scary. What I can see now, though, is that the ability to get back up…to face the situation again…to risk failure and accidents again…is valuable in this life of hard knocks.
I can assure that we will get knocked down. But do we have to stay there, assuming there’s no point in getting up when we’ll just be there again? Do we have to hold onto memories as some kind of premonition? Do we have to see the past as an indicator of the future? Do we have to believe every thought that warns of tragedy or pain or calamity just because something bad happened one time?
We do not. We can make the choice to believe that bad things happen, but that we are not stuck in them. We can choose to believe that good things are coming. We can choose hope over dread. We can get back on the horse, breaking the hold that fear would love to place on us, and face the uncertain future with confidence unblemished by an unfortunate past.
Our enemy would love for us to remain in fear, but our God? He sets us free from that lie-induced bondage.
We can be in a car accident, but choose to get back in the car and drive the next day.
We can be hurt in a friendship, but choose to continue to put ourselves out there in vulnerable community.
We can lose our job in a series of layoffs, but choose to apply for another job.
We can miss flights and spend stormy nights in the closet and visit a loved one in the hospital, believing in faith that the past has no bearing on the future.
We can be knocked flat on our backs by life, but choose to get up again and keep going. We may get up slowly. Our steps may be reluctant and our grip on the wheel may be tight, but we can move forward again. We can move forward without fear.
Friend, I don’t know what proverbial horse you need to remount today. I don’t know the memories that taunt you with certain catastrophe in the future, and I don’t know what part of your past keeps you from being able to move forward.
Trust me, though, when I tell you that you can move forward. You can break the hold that fear and dread have on you. You can move boldly into your future, because your God is already there; nothing awaiting you will be a surprise to Him.
Take a step. Get back on the horse. You might fall again, yes…but you also might have the best ride of your life.
Cheering you on,