How do you stop a man from walking down that road (or how I hit a man).
As evening approached I reflected on what a good day it had been. I had taken a Sabbath rest and felt refreshed, but also felt the pressure of the world returning. I had to preach the next morning and still needed to rework my notes, check my sermon for length, and do a test run.
After bedtime stories and prayers with my three kids, I decided to go out and pick up milk and donuts for breakfast hoping to smooth out our morning and give myself a little more time to prep.
It was a rainy evening and as I drove home my mind kept going over the text I was given to work on for the sermon. I decided to turn off the radio and try out some of the wording I was playing with. By this point I knew the text from memory and not having the wording on paper it felt right to just talk out the phrasing.
As I got closer to home the rain stopped and the traffic lightened.
I was still talking out loud when I saw him. A dark figure, it was more like a flash than any defining features. He stumbled out into the road just in front of me. Instinctively I slammed on the breaks and laid on the horn. I cut the steering wheel in the opposite direction he had come from. But in a matter of seconds I watched his head collide with my windshield and then disappear again...
My van came to a stop and for a brief second I couldn't breathe, my body was stuck in neutral as my brain tried to process the last 30 seconds. Then all at once the adrenalin kicked in and I jumped out of the van.
The van was parked across one and a half lanes partially blocking traffic, and a man lay five or six feet in front of it. Cars began trying to drive around the van nearly running over the man in the road. I quickly stood in the lane and flagged the cars down until one of them stopped to block the traffic.
I enlisted the help of a second motorist to find someone with a cell phone and get help. Then I knelt down next to the man. He was bleeding from his mouth and the top of his head. I silently cried out to God "This is an emergency, if there is someone else in line to speak to you then you need to ask them to step aside because we need you NOW!"
The man began to stir and I gently put my hand on him. "What is your name," I asked.
"Arthur," he replied. He then began trying to sit up and asked, "Where's my beer? I need my beer." I replied with as much authority as I could muster "NO... Arthur what you need is to lay down right here." He reluctantly complied.
I'm not sure what came over me as I'm not usually pushy in my evangelism. But, I looked into his eyes and asked, "Arthur do you know Jesus loves you..." He said he had heard that before and wasn't interested.
I admit at this point I had no sense of time it felt as if it had been an eternity. It must not have been more than a minute or so though because the driver who had stopped to block the other lane arrived from her car with a blanket, and the other driver I had enlisted to find a cell phone reported rescuers were on there way. Help had arrived in the form of other motorists, but professional help was no where in sight. I couldn't hear any of the sirens that I expected should have been screaming our direction.
Arthur's objections about our lack of concern for his beer subsided, he closed his eyes and lay his head down. This did very little to calm me... With my hand still on his arm I closed my eyes and began to pray fervently for the Lord to keep Arthur with us, and to speed the rescue workers. The smell of spilled beer and blood heightened the desperation of my prayers.
As the first officer arrived I felt the life draining out of me. I fell back and just sat there on the ground muscles shaking and mind reeling. What had just happened to me, to Arthur... Where was God at this moment?
It was then that I felt a hand on my head and heard the prayers of the woman who had blocked the other lane and brought the blanket. I couldn't tell what she was saying but in that moment I had a very real sense that Jesus was there on the road with us, laying next to Arthur (despite Arthur's objections), sitting next to me (despite my disbelief), working in and through this woman. I'm not sure how long I sat there on the wet asphalt, just existing in this sacred moment in presence of Jesus.
I heard more commotion and looked up to see and hear the paramedics saying "hang in there buddy..."
"His name is Aurthur," I found myself saying more forcefully than I intended.
By this point there were several police officers all around blocking traffic and securing the scene. An older officer with stripes on his sleeve walked up to me and offered his hand. I reached out and he pulled me to my feet. Firmly gripping my hand he placed his other hand on my shoulder in a reassuring gesture.
He looked into my eyes and said, "You are going to be OK, Arthur is going to be OK. This was not your fault..." He handed me his blackberry and said "call your wife, dispatch has already called but she will be worried and need to hear from you." There was Jesus again speaking to me reassuring me, and reminding me of of those closest to me.
Then my friends arrived with a much needed hug. One scooped up the groceries I had been allowed to retrieve from my van and carried them back. The other walked me to her car slowing her pace to match mine, which was painfully slow probably due to still being in shock. I cracked a joke about the messiness of her car and the usual energetic smile returned to her face as she also joked about it. Somehow even though I knew nothing was OK yet, I felt everything would be OK.
I preached the next day, a shorter sermon than I may have had I had time to lengthen it. And attempted to visit Arthur in the hospital. After some initial denial from security we found Arthur not in the morgue or intensive care as I had feared, but resting peaceful on the second floor. He had a few bandages but no visible trauma. I prayed for him and left him a bible and our phone number.
Exactly one week latter and less than a block from the scene I stopped my van and watched in disbelief. What I saw just didn't make sense. There was Arthur walking not across the street but down the middle of a lane. At first I wasn't sure what I should do, but disbelief quickly turned to frustration and inaction became a non-option.
I rolled down my window and yelled "Arthur, Get out of this road... Your going to get hit by a car AGAIN." Arthur looked at me with a blank uncaring look and continued down the middle of the other lane.
I believe many people are affected by traumas and have the scars to prove it yet they continue to walk down roads they know are dangerous.
So the question that is burning in me is this:
How do you stop someone from continuing down the wrong road?
If people are not willing to be awakened by a traumatic event such as being hit by a car, what are we to do to shake them out of their sleep?