In February of 2008 we were in a horrible wreck. My pregnant daughter and I were taken by ambulance to the hospital while emergency workers continued trying to get my husband out of our vehicle. We were taken to our state’s top trauma hospital because they knew that was where they would be taking my husband. My daughter and I were both released later in the day. My husband remained in the hospital for a week with multiple injuries. Once released, he remained in a wheelchair for a few months. Several other vehicles were involved in the incident and other people were also injured.
It was bad.
We learned later that the driver of the painting truck who caused the wreck (hitting us first) did not have a license and had an expired work permit, thus making him an illegal immigrant.
We were angry.
As more details came out and as we began to heal, we became less angry and more amazed at God’s provision, protection, and purposes. Family and friends surrounded us with care. The more we talked about everything that happened, the more obvious all the ways God had his hand on the situation became. The biggest detail was that we were not sitting in our “normal” spots in the car that day which meant my daughter ended up in the least impacted area of the car rather than the most directly hit. There are also dozens of details surrounding the time in the hospital where we knew God was near and was providing for our care physically, mentally, and emotionally. There was the conversation with an accident reconstruction specialist who after hearing the details for the third time just shook his head and said “that was a God thing because all my training says the car would have rolled over.”
We were amazed.
While my husband and I have some lasting physical effects, we are fine. The injuries that still trouble us serve as a reminder of our weakness and how little we actually control; they are equally a reminder of God’s faithfulness. While we couldn’t control the physical impact, we learned every day that we could control much of the mental and emotional part of healing. We could have become bitter and vengeful and this post would be about how bad illegal immigrants are, or a certain race is, or that we should build walls – all deluding ourselves into thinking that any of those factors could have prevented the wreck.
But, here’s the thing.
God didn’t prevent this! He knew it was going to happen and He allowed it – for His purposes. We don’t know what those purposes were for anyone else involved but we figured out what some of them were for us.
We learned lots of other things too. We found out that the painting company this young man worked for tried to tell the insurance companies that “some guy” stole the truck. Investigators disproved this rather quickly finding that he was not only employed by the company but they had sent him to go get lunch while they finished up at the paint store. They likely knew he had no license and also that his work visa had expired. They seem to have mostly been interested in maintaining cheap labor and then trying to cover up after the wreck.
As part of processing and working toward empathy and finally forgiveness, I asked myself many questions about that part of the situation:
How often are companies complicit in maintaining workers as illegals? Clearly this company had limited ethical standards so it isn’t hard to imagine them choosing to benefit from not paying taxes, benefits, unemployment, and other things required for a legal employee. The profitability must have seemed worth the risk.
How bad was it where this young man came from – how poor, how dangerous – that he was willing to stay on illegally to work?
Further, how complicated and inaccessible is the system to renew a work visa or apply for legal status? If the government offices were only open during the hours he worked, it doesn’t seem likely his employer would have been inclined to let him have time off, let alone encourage him to take care of it. It’s possible, if it was financially beneficial to them for employees to remain “illegal”, that they even purposely made it difficult to get the time and information needed for the process.
We just don’t know.
I choose to believe the best about this man – that he was just trying to follow directions and earn a living from an unscrupulous employer. We don’t know exactly what happened to him after the wreck. We know he served several months under house arrest. It is likely he was fired and then in an even more difficult financial spot. I truly hope someone helped him to attain legal status whether temporary or permanent. I pray that if he was deported back to Mexico that he is in a safe area and was able to find work there. I believe God was intervening in his life in an ultimately positive way just as he was in ours.
I chose to forgive.
For us, the wreck changed everything. My husband couldn’t take the high paying job he’d planned to after he retired because he was still in the wheelchair when the job became available.
God opened our eyes to our love of money and the false sense of security it brings.
While he recuperated, we had months of almost 24/7 contact with each other forcing us to deal with relational issues we had been actively ignoring and ones we’d remained too busy or distracted to notice. It isn’t an overstatement to say that we likely wouldn’t still be married if the wreck hadn’t happened.
God forced us to slow down and made a path for us back to each other and also back to Him on a much deeper level.
The losses dominoed as no comparable job came for my husband and I was picked for permanent layoff when the housing industry declined. The six weeks I was off work recovering and taking care of my husband as he recovered during the busy Spring season meant my sales figures were the lowest for that year. All this and a few other factors forced us to leave the home we had built, mostly with our own hands, for something we could afford now.
God tore down the idol of a dream home that had become a nightmare and provided a home in the inner city where we learned and grew more than we ever could have in our house in the woods.
Mostly, we learned that there are multiple facets to all of our stories – the beautiful ones and the seemingly ugly ones. It is easiest to judge and misjudge others when we avoid learning the details of their story.
We can choose to look for and believe the best in the situation, in other people, and in God, or we can choose anger, bitterness, and fear. But fear and love cannot occupy the same space. So, even if the anger or fear is “justified”, the result is the same – a heart shut down to empathy, mercy, and love.
I choose love.