We’ve all hit one at some point. The brick wall, the place we crash into screeching, bracing, and screaming and wind up banged, bruised, hurt, dazed, confused, angry, fearful, crumpled, broken, and stopped. All forward motion ceases and we are abruptly stilled by the sheer force of the impact. And then the aftershock. The cracks, the crumbling, and the realization that this will never, ever be the same as it was. Often we see it as an ending, a total wreck, a mess out of which we cannot climb or extricate ourselves. Sometimes the wall collapses around us, bits of it on us. And because of the sheer magnitude of what has just hit us, or what we’ve hit against, we can’t move. We are stuck at the brick wall, at the rubble, and the destruction. Our focus narrows and centers and all else in our lives runs the filter of smashing into the brick wall. And somehow, we are blinded to anything except that.
But what if the brick wall saves us. What if it’s the message we need to hear? What if it’s the only thing that stops us from continuing down the path we are on that is worse than hitting the brick wall and enduring the aftermath? What if we had swerved and evaded or avoided that brick wall and then the brakes failed as we rounded a steep, deadly cliff?
What if the brick wall is a door? And the only way that door is opened is to ram right through it at 100 mph and jar ourselves out of the complacency we are in? Because without hitting that wall we will never see beyond it, never recognize the need for something different, something better, and something new?
What if the brick wall really is the best thing that could happen to us? What if God allowed it? Because He loves us. Because He has the something different, something better, and something new just waiting for us to find. He just needs to get our attention, and a brick wall smarts a bit more than a baseball bat.
Years ago I was hit head on by a vehicle who charged ahead from the left turn lane on a red light; I was in the intersection, facing that car, waiting to turn left and watched in slow motion as they came barreling my way. The thoughts that raced through my mind included that my sister had just passed months ago and my grandmother just weeks ago and now I would join them…and what would happen to my babies? The faces of my children stricken with grief and crying out for me seared my heart. Every emotion imaginable swept through me in the milliseconds it took for that car to slam into mine. I couldn’t move. I braced and took the impact.
In the ensuing months with auto repairs and insurance and police and eventually court, I was slammed again and again into the brick wall. The other driver had no insurance. They were not here legally. The police officer told me not to worry, that I had insurance. Another police officer swore in court that she had witnessed me turning illegally but her testimony didn’t align with the timing and the judge dismissed their suit, advising us to pursue the police officer for false testimony. It seemed as if everywhere we turned, we hit another wall. It wound up costing us tremendously and we never sued anyone; we just wanted justice, and peace.
Not long after that I watched another car race through a red light and hit another one while I was sitting dead still in the left turn lane, not even past the stop line, and the police officer cited me for causing the accident. Again, as before, nothing I could say or do or prove kept our insurance company from paying out huge settlements to both of these people. And one had even admitted she ran the light to hurry up and get her daughter to school. Bang, crash…wall, wall, wall.
Because of these events, I became hyper alert, even fearful, about left hand turns. To this day I am paranoid about turning left and will make numerous right hand turns to keep from turning left. Oh, yes, I waste gas and time, but I feel safer. In trying to help me understand, someone said there had to be a lesson there, somewhere, somehow. I just had to wait for it.
Driving with my daughter one day a few years after all of this I was waiting to turn left because there was no choice. The light changed and a huge semi was coming my way. In the South they call a feeling “a rabbit running over your grave”, but whatever you call it, I had it and even though that truck was a football field away and everything said “go”, I felt “stop”…so I did, and that truck blasted through way and beyond the speed limit, rocking our car to and fro as we sat there. As I looked over at my wonderfully safe little girl, I wondered then and there if that was it. If those other things had happened for that moment, that place, that time, that event so I would be hyper alert to oncoming traffic because if I had even tried to make my turn…
Once we hit the brick wall and seeing stars and reeling turns to detached, immobile numbness, we have two choices to make. We can act or not act. We can sit there and let the rubble heap grow around us by doing nothing to clear it. We can focus on the hurt, focus on the loss, focus on the wreck we’ve been in or made and fail to help ourselves out of it. Sometimes we just don’t see how, with it piled high and seeming to get higher as the wall continues it tumble, we can do it, much less do it alone. Because that’s one of those things about brick walls. There may be passengers with us and there may others who come along beside us when we hit it, but when it comes right down to it, we’re the ones who have to face the rubble and start the process of clearing it.
And that’s hard. And that hurts. And sometimes the fear of what that looks like, the fear of what will happen or what it will be like with the rubble cleared keeps us from doing it. And sometimes we’re just so mad about the whole thing happening in the first place that our stubborn thing kicks in and we cry “foul”, “that’s so unfair”, “I don’t deserve that”, and “why me?” Sometimes we don’t want to remember we were in the driver’s seat because that hurts even more and rather than face that hurt, we look for anyone, anything, and everything just so we don’t have to look inside. Deep inside. Into that space that is God-shaped, that only He can fill. Because, let’s admit it, we’re pretty ticked off at Him, too. If He was this and that He wouldn’t have let this happen, right? He knew all this was going on and that brick wall was coming closer, but did He do anything about it?
How wonderful that He both doesn’t and does. He gives us the freedom to make our choices, but at some point He does say “enough”. And then, if we keep going anyway, He may just let it happen. And on to the next brick wall, this one bigger, this one heavier, this one that hurts even more and creates, yes, even greater destruction.
I love that we aren’t puppets. That we aren’t “controlled” but that He gives us freedom and free-will despite how we often misunderstand, mislabel, and abuse it. I love His grace, and mercy, and forgiveness, and, most of all, His desire to see us out of the rubble and into something different, better and new. And that He gives us the guidebook, the map, the plan to follow to get there. We just have to read it, again and again until the feeling that its useless are replaced by those of courage, confidence and commitment to make better choices, choices that move us toward the different, better and new. We have to want that, too. We have to want that more than we’ve wanted anything else. We have to be willing to surrender, to submit, and, yes, even suffer, as we rebuild. And we have to know it takes time, and accept that time with faith and trust and still be committed to it, even if we don’t see instant results, or even if it doesn’t look like we’ll get what we want.
Someone who literally crashed into a brick wall at 35 mph on the return drive home from a desert hike shared, “I had been feeling something and suddenly this huge, hairy spider crawled from the underside of my arm to the top. I admit it, I hate spiders, and this one was like something out of a Stephen King film. I was approaching a neighborhood and I don’t know how it happened but I must have pushed on the gas at the same time I flung my hands up because I remember nothing except waking up in the ambulance and screaming about the spider. They thought I was on drugs. The next day I learned that the elderly woman whose house I had slammed into was in her garage thinking about suicide, but when I came crashing into her house on the bedroom side she ran to see what had happened and helped me. She realized she was still needed. I call her my hairy spider godmother now and she’s been like a grandma to my kids the last few years.”
Slamming into a brick wall can rock our world. It’s what we do with it, what comes as a result of it, the actions we take after it that gives it meaning – something different, something better and something new – a brick wall wrapped gift from God.
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