As my family and I were heading to Annual Conference this summer, our van broke down in Hickory, N.C. Fortunately, we were able to make it to the nearest dealership to have the needed work completed. As I was waiting to have my car examined by the mechanic, an older man named John came up to me and commented on my van. When I asked about his vehicle he quickly responded that he did not have a vehicle and that he was here with his family. Come to find out, not only did John not have a vehicle, he was not able to drive.
John shared with me his gruesome story of how a man he had thought of as his best friend had intentionally shot him in face over 25 years ago. The bullet had gone though his skull from front to back. After being in a coma for a significant amount of time, he survived, but the damage from the bullet left the back of his head flat and half of his brain had to be removed. Though John moved around pretty well with only a cane, he had lost all movement in one of his legs. For all he had been through, he seemed very much together, although he did confess that he often struggled to understand and grasp things in the ways he once did.
After telling me all about this horrific and unbelievable event, John looked me straight in the eyes and told me that God had rescued him and saved his life. He knew nothing about me and was in no way trying to evangelize. He was simply speaking what he knew to be true. He then said something to me that I will never forget. While still looking me in the eyes, he told me that since the first Sunday after he had awoken from his coma, he went to church every single week to give thanks for all God had done in his life, even though he had no idea what was being talked about most of the time.
I realized right then that John understood what it felt like to be saved by God in a real and profound way. John had no knowledge of the different atonement theories and he knew nothing of systematic theology. He couldn’t even understand most of what he read in the Bible, but his mind had been transformed. John knew God’s plan was one of love, and he knew that no matter what the cost, God would always rescue him. He knew that God would always save him, just as he had done over 25 years ago. He knew he had nothing to fear in life or death. He knew his legs were weak, and so he allowed himself to be carried by the love of God.
While many of us straddle the line between the false realities of this world and the true reality of the new life given to us in Christ, it is evident to me that John had both feet set in God’s reality. He knew it to be the true reality, and he knew it to be a reality he could live in the present.
Through John’s testimony, I feel like I am beginning to better understand God’s plan. God’s plan is simply to love us and to be together with us. This plan was no clearer than in the incarnation when in complete love God sent His own Son for us. God’s plan has been around since before Creation, and it has never changed.
Like John, may we all seek to have our minds transformed, our brains made whole, and our legs healed so that we can learn to walk freely, enslaved to God alone (Romans 6).
Kevin C. Miller D'11 is a Rural Ministry Fellow .