There are many places to possibly start this story from, but I’ll begin with the shoes in my hand about to be dipped in a bucket of soapy water. Like many other things in the story, from a certain perspective, these sneakers don’t matter. It’s a pair of white soles, but that is not so obvious now until I wash them. I had to walk through a number of dusty roads in between public transports the day before. If I intend to keep wearing the shoes, I will have to be washing them more frequently now as I wrecked my ’93 Corolla in a solo accident yesterday.
Every time I drove to work for a shift and made it in twenty minutes, or fifteen or twelve, depending on the day of the week or the time of the day, every time, I felt in control of my commute, without even thinking about it. Yesterday morning however, I wasn’t in control of the last two minutes of my drive back home after a busy night duty. I dozed – actually, slept – on the wheel, veered off the road and smashed through a number of obstacles, and crashed into a gutter. I woke up at some point in the middle of this realizing that a wreckage was in progress, and there was nothing I could do about it.
Life and limb were spared, to the astonishment of passers-by. No internal injuries either, confirmed later in the day. Fortunately I didn’t involve anyone else in this misfortune, not that it was within my control not to. What was lost, the precious value of this ease of transport, is a thing that is replaceable. What was spared is irreplaceable. Here is when loss feels like gain.
Perspective and meaning
Automobile accidents occur all the time, but one thing that would be peculiar about any incident is the perspective of the one who experienced it, which beautifully, is such a thing that can be shaped. So while we interpret the world and events based on our perspectives, these events may also in turn cause a shaping of those perspectives; they may reinforce, broaden, narrow, or, they may even transform those perspectives, when pondering the events leads us to search for more truths about reality. I think this is because, when we search for meaning, we are bound by our perspectives, which we find are either sufficient or insufficient.
And meaning matters because it seems people can endure the most depriving circumstances and harrowing experiences if they know there’s a meaning in it that is bigger than them and the event. What breaks us is not just great suffering, but meaningless, purposeless suffering. Hence our perspective must be sufficient for us to make sense of the world.
When our perspectives have been shaped in some way by thinking over an event, and a satisfactory meaning has been apprehended; we carry on these perspectives to the rest of our lives, like a new way of seeing the world that cannot be undone. Hence it may well be one of the blessings of such incidents which disrupt our routines and convenience, that they become chances for us to really think, and seek, until we discover not just meanings to cope with our sufferings but hopefully truer ways of seeing and of interpreting the world and life.
“God is Sovereign” is a statement that always solves the way I think about my problems. It’s a perspective, when reinforced by thinking over events, that resolves the tension between my desire to control my circumstances and my finding that I have no ultimate control over them. I am reminded that I don’t just lose control when I doze off on the wheels during the day or when I surrender the wheels to sleep at night; I am never primarily in charge. The idea of the Sovereignty of God limits regrets, because while I have a real responsibility to take precautions and will be held accountable for carelessness, my regrets cannot retain a desire fixated on undoing the past or preventing an ‘accident’ that has already happened in God’s own kind Providence.
When God is in charge, as is always the case, many things that seem to matter a great deal do not as much. For example, how I think and write about a car accident while contemplating God and his rule over the past, present and future, or his rule over my life, possessions and family, how I think about or write about God’s providence matters much more than whether or not I have to walk through dusty roads, whether or not I lose a car or lose anything else. A question such as, “is God kind, and wise?” matters infinitely much more.