When I told you that I had an accident with a pedestrian, a vision of my experience probably formed in your mind. Though I provided few details, your mind filled in the blanks. That is how we communicate. A person shares a bit of information and we then assume many things based on our knowledge and experience. But, I would encourage us to recognize the limit in our knowledge and experience and to grasp the truth in Proverbs 14:10, “The heart knows its own bitterness, and a stranger does not share its joy.”
When someone opens up about their life, we are only encountering the tip of the iceberg.
To help illustrate this reality, I will expand your knowledge about my accident. If you read the previous three blog posts that discuss the incident, you know that an eleven year old girl ran in front of my vehicle while chasing a dog. With that information you had a glimpse of the raw pain I have carried in my heart for over twenty years.
But someone pointed out to me that I never said if the girl died. Correct. She lived. I praise God she didn’t die, but I also beg God to help me forgive her and her family for all they did to exacerbate the situation.
Lying on the road beside the car with her own blood on the asphalt, she immediately informed her frantic mom once on the scene minutes later, “She hit me on purpose!”
Already reeling from the shock of having this young girl’s face pressed into my windshield and locking eyes with me as I slammed on the brakes (an image that haunted my dreams for many nights and that I can still see clearly), this unexpected accusation only further shocked me. Hit her on purpose?! How could that be her first words to her mom? What in the world is going on?
When her father showed up a little bit later, the police put me in the back of the police car to keep me safe from him. They knew him, and it wasn’t on friendly terms. So, there I sat in the back of the police car feeling further bewildered. I heard his angry words yelling, “Who did this?” as he looked viciously around for the one he thought responsible for hurting his baby.
Did I mention the girl was on house arrest? That one still blows my mind to this day.
All of this happened while I was working at a summer camp a thousand miles from my home and my parents. Now being a parent I can’t imagine being that far from my teenager going through such a horrific tragedy. I remember sitting in the camp office talking to my parents on the phone. My poor parents.
The girl’s family sued of course. Why wouldn’t they? An eleven year old girl under house arrest traipsing across a four lane highway (median and all) after a dog couldn’t be blamed at all for finding herself injured, could she now? Obviously it was all my fault. Well, also the dog owner. Did I forget to mention the dog wasn’t even hers? Yeah, the dog owners were sued as well. Makes sense, right?
If only the story stopped there. But, no, I experienced the American justice system. I still remember the day I gave my deposition to the lawyer over the phone. Several years had passed since the accident and I got to relive the whole traumatic experience and bring it all completely back to life…as if I had actually buried it. I bawled when I hung up the phone.
Then I got to go the courtroom. Sit on the witness stand. Face the girl. Hear her arrogant, confident lawyer strut across the floor to the jury and claim that if only I had done a friendly toot of the horn none of this would have happened. Oh really? Just a toot of the horn? How many times do you pass pedestrians? And how often do you actually toot at any of them? Yes, over 20 years later anger towards that unjust lawyer still quickly flares when I reflect on that scene. How dare he say what I should have done in a split-second judgment call that he most likely has never been in! I had been worried about hitting the dog who had stopped in my path. Next thing I know the girl crossed back into my lane and was the one I made impact with. When exactly should I have tooted the horn? It took me years to mute that lawyer’s judgment ringing in my mind every time I passed a pedestrian. Do I sound bitter to you? Please pray for me then. This was definitely one of the hardest aspects surrounding the accident. As I strive to forgive him, let us also recognize that our words can cut incredibly deep and have long-lasting negative impact. Words are not neutral. “A soothing tongue is a tree of life, but perversion in it crushes the spirit.” Proverbs 15:4 No doubt her lawyer crushed my spirit.
A few years ago I was at a local children’s museum with my kids. It was a really cool place and even had an actual police car inside that we could climb into. Lights flashing and all. As I approached it, something inside me started resisting the idea of getting inside, but my kids were eager to try out the vehicle so I slipped in the backseat. Immediately I was transported back in time to the accident scene sitting in the back of a police car for my own protection from the angry father. Shaking I immediately exited the children’s museum police car. Results of trauma can meet us at the most unexpected moments.
Truly, “the heart knows its own bitterness.”
When we are bearing tremendous internal pain, we must accept that no one can fully understand. Even though I have expounded more, I still have not shared every facet of the experience. No one can actually walk fully in my shoes. No one can fully walk in your shoes.
God has not made our friends, family, or even spouses to be all-knowing. As much as we might wish people could just understand our pain and so adjust their words and actions accordingly, we alone know the depth of pain in our hearts and how it affects us. This reality does not need to discourage us though. There is One who can fully come to our aid.
God is all-knowing.
While we cannot expect people to know what it is like to walk in our shoes, we can confidently know God has walked right beside us every step (Psalm 139). He knows every ounce of pain weighing down our heart. He couples His omniscience with a desire and command that we cast all that pain on Him and not bear it alone. Why? Because He cares for us. (I Peter 5:7).
After looking over my post, my editor (my husband) pointed out that I don’t state the outcome of the court case, which might leave some of you hanging. There will always be more to the story than I manage to share. The girl received nothing. However, this provides little solace since her words and her actions cut so deep.
Through writing this post and processing this deep bitterness in my soul, my attitude towards this girl has changed. She needs Jesus just as we all do. Now when she comes to mind, I will pray for her salvation. Her actions against me pale in comparison to my actions against Christ. If He can forgive me, surely I can forgive her. Pray I have a forgiving heart towards her. And please pray for her salvation. And please pray for my attitude towards her lawyer.
Man may only be able to comprehend the tip of the iceberg, but God understands our heart to the nth degree.
Have you thrown your deepest pain that you alone are privy to onto the God of the universe who loves you more than you can comprehend? (Ephesians 3:19)