In the Blink of an Eye
By Michael Stephanides
It’s a cool, sunny Friday afternoon and we are both off work and free. Life is good. We are so blessed with health and places where we can escape the confines of the house amid a pandemic and social distancing. We choose to go mountain biking. Exercise clears the mind and brings peace to the soul.
Freedom, fresh air, flying down the hill – and suddenly a flash of the handlebars, a bone-jarring crunch of head and neck … and then it went dark. Life changed as I knew it in the blink of an eye. Why am I in the dirt and not on my bike? Why is it so hard to breathe? I kept trying to call out for my wife, but no words would come. Denial, they say, is not just a river in Egypt, but more of a male trait in the face of reality. Hence, I refused a trip to the ER at that moment, put on my cracked helmet, and walked/rode my bike out of the woods.
God in His infinite grace and mercy gives us wives – aka common sense – to keep us from an early demise. I found myself sitting in the emergency room Saturday morning being asked if I wanted something for pain. I said I wasn’t hurting that much. To which he mumbled something to the nature of being tachycardic, diaphoretic, hypertensive, and thrashing around in the bed, … and that I was in fact in pain. (See Egyptian River above). ‘Common sense’ had to wait in the car due to the pandemic.
After IV’s, CT’s, and some sweet nectar in the veins that made the world a better place, I listened to the doctor’s report.
“You have a displaced fracture of C2 right foramen (a small opening thru which vital things pass), a nondisplaced fracture of C7, as well as a fracture of the right first rib.”
“Can you even break that rib?”, I thought to myself. I’ll skip over the brain concussion as ‘common sense’ is questioning the existence of one to concuss.
Post-concussive syndrome has its benefits though; I can now walk in the kitchen and have a legitimate excuse for forgetting what it was I was after.
I am now in an Aspen collar which makes me look like a turtle straining to see over a log. The dogs all laughed when I returned home wearing the equivalent of the ‘cone of shame’ we put on them to save them from themselves.
The reality of what I had done and survived began to sink in over the next few days, as well as how much I had to be thankful for. We know of another man with a similar injury who was not so fortunate and is faced with life challenges beyond imagination.
In the movie Overcomer, one man asks the other, “Who are you? What is your identity?”
To which the other replies, “I’m a coach, I’m a history professor, I’m a father,” and finally, “I’m a Christian.”
“Why is it so far down your list?” he asks.
Just before the unforgettable blink, I was a clinician, a runner, a biker, and now I sit in the house unable to work, run, bike, or even lift much of anything.
It is so incredibly hard to come face to face with our mortality and how quickly life can change. One minute healthy, and in the blink of an eye, you have a broken neck and are out of work. Why would God allow this, and to what end? How does this hardship bring glory to God? How often do we wrestle with God when we don’t understand the things that happen? When we perceive that our prayers go unanswered, or that He has somehow forgotten us. When we allow our identity to be tied up in who or what we are, or for that matter what we have accomplished, and not with the one who created us.
We were made to hear the phrase “Well done good and faithful servant.” The problem is most of us spend every energy of our lives longing to hear that from a lesser master.
Our church just finished a series on the book of Habakkuk. One of the minor profits in the Old Testament who is crying out to God about the sins of Judah and God’s decision to use the Babylonians to execute judgment. In the end, Habakkuk moves from his uncertainty, confusion, and doubt, to his proclamation “…Yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.” (Habakkuk 3:18).
We are definitely living in unprecedented times with COVID-19, social isolation, job losses, economic insecurity, and the uncertainty of containment and/or cure for this virus. What a great opportunity we have now, to reflect on who or what we are. What truly matters? No matter the latest social-media spin and polarized opinions. No matter the sense that the “Babylonians are coming to execute judgment on us.” No matter; we simply must remember we serve an omniscient God who has not been caught off guard by this virus and who is far greater than anything that comes our way.
Let us put aside the illusion that we are in charge and have control over our tomorrows. Let us take this time to reflect and remember that we were created in the image of God to be in fellowship with Him. That it is Christ and Christ alone who defines us and calls us by name. Let us live our lives amid our trials with a steadfast faith that He has us in His hand and is writing a story. A story we may not understand but is far greater than anything we can imagine. Let us live our lives like the apostle Paul – four years in a prison cell with a death sentence hanging over his head – who writes Philippians, commonly known as the epistle of Joy.
“For the vision is yet for the appointed time; it hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay.” Habakkuk 2:3
Michael Stephanides is a resident of Morganton NC, and has lived there with his wife of 30 years. They have had the privilege of raising 3 biological children, and one adopted child, ages 24-29. Their daughters are married to great men, and they have 2 beautiful grandchildren. Michael and his wife are members of Summit Community Church in Morganton.
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