“Oh God, please God no, not now, not now!! I finally have my life together, Oh God help me please!” My cries broke through the serenity of the pounding of the waves of the Pacific Ocean as I lay at the top of the dune, buried 2 feet in the sand. I had gone with friends for my first ever horseback ride along the Pacific Ocean for my birthday. I had even gotten a brand-new pair of my favorite western jeans, not a trivial purchase, and a new western shirt to commemorate my ride. The last thing I remember before hitting the ground, was the horse owner saying, “Watch out this is where he likes to……” Before he could finish his words, the horse went into a full-on buck (apparently something he could do often) and I was 20 feet in the air going over his head before I heard the word “buck”. I landed on my right hip and my back hit the only branch in six miles of trail followed by the concussive blow to my head. You know, for sand, it is not so soft when you land that way. I screamed from the pain that exploded in my back, my hips, legs and head. The horse owner tried to re-position my legs which brought even more screams as I blacked out for a moment. I knew at that moment I was not just hurt, I was severely broken inside. He got on his other horse and rode for help.
I was so very scared. I would black out for just a moment and then open my eyes and get brief flashes. I saw the job I worked at and loved, I saw my new apartment I had gotten just two months before after living with friends for two years, trying to get on my feet after a divorce, health scare, and difficult move from another state. I thought of my goal to work with the group I was riding with, we were going to work together to get horses for disabled veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Injury to work with. I thought of my plans to train during the summer on cutting and reining horses for competition. I loved horses, they were everything good for the inside of me. As I saw all this, I knew if it was as bad as I thought it was, all the positive accomplishments in my life, my plans and my dreams were about to evaporate. I kept crying out to God, please not now.
I was not sure, at that moment, if I would be leaving that beach in anything but a body bag, as my breathing became labored and I started to lose the feeling in my legs. As I laid there interchanging my screaming, with crying, with begging God to help me, and praying in my spirit, I was aware of a very kind woman walking into my view. I must have looked crazy. In her hand was a blanket. She knelt in the sand by my head and stroked my sand encrusted face repeatedly telling me it was going to be okay. I just cried and cried, I hurt so very much. I kept alternating with trying to talk and praying in the spirit, interlaced with moans, screams and sobbing. I knew she was being kind, but then she said you will get through this and He will not leave you. She said a very quick prayer, looked me in the eyes as she stroked my head and told me again that I was not alone, He was with me, everything really was going to be okay. There was such warmth and comfort in her words and for a momentary sliver of time it was as if I was not on the sand, but looking at myself and everything from above. She covered me with the blanket saying her husband and she were retired, and that was all she had to offer. I told her through my tears, “thank you so much”. She placed her hand on my shoulder and I swear there was a warm glow around it. I looked over at the gathering crowd and there was no husband. I felt her hand leave my shoulder and looked over, wanting to beg her to stay, but she was gone, nowhere in the crowd, nowhere along the trail I could see. In the next moment, I was back on the ground, and the extreme pain kept causing me to pass out. When I would wake, I was praying in my spirit and the promises from God that were yet unfulfilled came flooding back to my memory. I knew then, together with the wonderful “angel” sent that this was not where I was going to die, no matter how much I might feel I wish I could. I do not know how long it took the beach rescue crew to get there. They could not do anything without someone with a medical background because of how injured I was. Soon I found myself surrounded by paramedics and firefighters from the Arroyo Grande Fire Department. It turns out the station was just on the other side of the sand dune and they had crossed it to get me when they heard there was an emergency on the beach. Together with the beach rescue crew, six men slowly dug the sand out from around me. Two feet embedded in the sand is a lot of sand to move. They finally got enough access to slide a split backboard under me to extract me from the beach and put me into the ambulance that was pulling up at the bottom of the trail. Once, in the ambulance, I remember one of the paramedics trying to put in an I.V., but between my injuries and the jostling of driving on the sand, it was impossible. I remember telling him forget it. I do not remember much else of the drive to the hospital which was less than a mile away. Once wheeled into the ER, a quick look and nurses were cutting off my brand-new jeans and shirt. They started for my 1-year old Ariat boots and I remember telling them no, I know it will hurt but don’t cut them off, pull them off. Oh, my goodness, it hurt worse than anything in the world at that moment. I blacked out as they took me to CT to do my entire body. I awoke to the neurosurgeon talking to me, telling me that I was hurt bad and I had a piece of loose bone in my spinal canal, where it did not belong. The neurosurgeon went on to tell me that had my back not landed on that branch, the straight-line impact would be like falling from a three-story building and it would have spiked my spinal column up into my brain. He told me I would never ride horses again. At that moment, I realized how close to death I could have been. From that day to this, I tell people I fell on the branch and was saved by the Branch. We had ridden the whole six miles of trail. There was not one branch on it as the beach had been recently cleaned up following a storm. The statistical improbability of that branch being in the right place to disrupt a fall that should have killed me is astronomical. But, with God nothing is impossible. He says He will protect and guide us, that His ways are higher than ours. God does not hurt His children. But we live in a world that is messed up and full of sin, it is not a perfect place. Things happen, life happens. Yet in the middle of all of that He promises to be with His children, to never leave them, or forsake them, to give them a hope and a future for He knows the plans He has for them, to do good. That day I know He sent an angel to speak the truth, to speak life to me, to comfort me, knowing without it I could lose my life. I knew when I prayed in my spirit He was present, even though everything was so grim. There was much pain, but the “why God” did not come until much later. And when it did, I learned that sometimes I must wait for that answer, that I may never know while on this earth and I am OK with that, finally.
It is so easy to do a “1-2-3 step, jump, kick”, and say God must work and protect me this way because that is how I understand it to be. But what if… what if by yielding to go through the process instead of the instant healing we can reach one person with the good news. What if, because of being obedient and forgiving and not getting my justice, this is part of why I can walk today and perhaps in the process someone met Jesus?? What if in our journey on this earth, it is about being accessible and real and humble? What if what He is asking us to do is be available for whatever the plan may be, whether we understand or not? We say, “here I am send me”, but what if that “send me” includes prison, pain, injury or death? What if that is the call, because there is one who needs to hear about Jesus and the good news and they can only be reached in a certain manner or place that only God knows? What if I was obedient, I did go where I was supposed to and the very nature of the accident and all that has happened since, gives Him the glory because I could not walk it without Him and people see Him and not me? I had no idea that my walk with Jesus was about to get real. It is easy to talk about how to walk with the Lord or how to be a good person or how to endure hardship like a good soldier. It is a whole different thing to walk it. Without the challenges and trials, how could we ever exercise our opportunities to totally yield our life, our dreams, our challenges and all our hopes and make Jesus the Lord of our life? What if we really would trust Him? What could be done if we did?