When I was a junior in college, some friends and I were involved in a serious ATV accident in the mountains of Georgia. We were sitting three across—the driver, a girl in the middle and myself on the far right—and going way too fast. Eventually the driver lost control of the vehicle and was thrown out of her seat, leaving my friend and me in an unmanned ATV racing along the side of the mountain. A few moments later, we veered off the path and hit a tree. Among other things, I broke my femur in two places and suffered severe lacerations on both legs. I was CareFlighted to a trauma center in Chattanooga and woke up a few days later to a lot of pain and a room full of very concerned friends and family.
There were lots of tears and well wishes, and lots of people telling me how blessed I was to be alive. But as I lay there among the cards and balloons and well-meaning visitors, I didn’t feel very blessed. I felt angry. I was angry that I had survived—angry that I was alive.
It wasn’t something to say out loud, especially surrounded by people still gushing over how lucky I was to “have a second chance.” I knew logically that I was “lucky,” that if not for the grace and protection of God I could have lost my leg or worse. But, still, in my most honest moments in that hospital room, all I could muster was anger.
I waited for the feeling to subside. Waited for the morning when I’d wake up and cry those “second-chance tears” that everyone expected me to cry. Waited for the overwhelming rush of relief that I would have the chance to tell everyone exactly how I felt about them because “you just never know how much time you have” and so on and so forth.
But it never came and, in many ways, still hasn’t. Because life in a broken world can be painful and hard. And it can be easy to forget the goodness of God and to forget that He who knit us together in our mother’s womb and who preserves our lives for His Name’s sake (Ps. 143:11) has already defeated the darkness and chaos and sin all around us.
So when I woke up in that hospital, faced once again with pain and hardship and sin and frustration, I was angry that I wasn’t free from it yet. Angry that it wasn’t over.
I know how blessed I am to have recovered so well from such a serious accident. I’ve been given days that others haven’t. Nearly every time I go for a run, I am reminded of how close I came to losing the ability to even walk. I have a visible scar to remind me of what happened every time I wear shorts or tie my shoes. And while I am unthinkably grateful that I can walk and jump and run and dance, I still sometimes struggle with being thankful to still be here.
I am daily overwhelmed with a longing for the place where sin and sickness and sadness do not exist (Rev. 21:4). The place where I will be at the feet of my Creator, no longer restrained by sinful flesh as I worship Him. The place where every ounce of my soul is overcome by adoration of the living Christ. The place where my heart is no longer divided. And I am not alone. Scripture says that even creation groans for the day when all will be made new (Rom. 8:22).
I so admire Paul’s words in Philippians: “to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” He knows that to die and be with Christ would be “far better” yet still longs to stay and continue His work on the Earth. I need to fight to recapture the joy of the here and now and rejoice in God’s sovereignty and goodness.
I pray for a heart that desires to carry out the work of Christ, a heart like Paul’s. The longing for heaven is good. It is a reminder that this isn’t the end of the story for us. But God has called us to an abundant life here while we long for heaven. We are to love Him and love His people, to fight for righteousness amidst a world of evil until He calls us home. To be thankful to live another day for His glory and His purposes and His will.
But I admit that my sinful heart does not always desire those things. I don’t always seek the abundant life, I don’t always love His people and I don’t always rejoice in His purposes when they include cancer and heartbreak and sin and suffering.
I know God. I love Him. And in the depths of my heart, I trust in His goodness. I trust that my days are purposeful and are a part of His beautiful story of redemption.
But man, I am ready for home.
Give me the heart of Paul, Lord. My flesh wants the easy way out.