The Wreck (Part 1)

by Andy Wood on May 20, 2008

in Gamblers, LV Alter-egos, Turning Points

(A Turning Point Story)

Bicycle Wreck

What do you do when you encounter somebody who’s made a wreck of his or her life?  What do you do when that that wreck of a life shows up in your place of worship?  What do you do when YOU are the wreck?

The closest I ever came to having a horse was a 1964 Ford Tractor at my granddaddy’s, and a ten-speed bicycle I got for Christmas my ninth grade year in  school.  I put miles – miles – on that bike.

Now, years later, it leaned against the wall in my dad’s workshop in disrepair.  But for some strange reason, Daddy and I were inspired, and decided to get it going again.  A brand new front tire, new tubes, adjustments to the brakes, handlebars and seat – only one thing was missing.  Our hand pump wasn’t strong enough to inflate the tires completely.  So we pumped them up as much as possible, and decided to take the bike to a nearby service station to finish the job.  We had to hurry, though, to outrun one of those afternoon thundershowers so common in Mobile during the summer.  We took the short cut through the woods behind the house – I on my old trusty-rusty steed and my dad on my sister’s three-speed.  We emerged behind a shopping center near the service station, only to be greeted by a sudden downpour. 

So we waited.

It was frustrating to sit there, pinned in by the rain with our destination in sight.  So when the shower let up a little, we decided to make a mad dash for it.  We had a plan, sort of.  We’d go across the parking lot, behind the Seven-Eleven store, through the little alley, to the Texaco station.  Once we go the tires pumped up, we’d figure it out from there.

Off we flew!  Across the parking lot.  Around the back corner of the Seven-Eleven. 

Just one problem.


Nobody bothered to notify the guy in the old Chevy Malibu that we had dibs on the alley.  Just as I rounded the store at breakneck speed, I met him coming the other way. 

I guess “met” is actually a nice way of describing it.  He was doing about twenty miles per hour; I was doing about fifteen.  My dad, behind me, was able to stop. 

I wasn’t. 

It was one of those life-in-slow-motion experiences that happens in a matter of seconds, yet seems to be etched in vivid detail.  I yanked up on the hand brakes.  But there was no way to avoid a head-on collision.  All I had time to do was pick a place to fall.  So I chose the path of least resistance and landed beside the shrubs that served as a fence between the store and the station.

I could have been killed.  My bike was!  I was only banged up, bruised, and muddy.  The other guy was scared to death, and my dad offered the obligatory, “Why didn’t you watch where you were going?” 

But it was an accident.  Preventable? Yes.  Predictable?  No.

Falling from the bike wasn’t the hardest part of that experience.  The most difficult thing was the waiting.  My brand new tire was literally bent in half.  So I had to stand, soaking wet, scraped and bruised, covered with mud and dirt, freezing in a convenience store, trying to look cool and composed, while my father rode back home to get his truck.  It seemed to take forever.  I had more than one concerned look while I, shivering, said lamely, “You should see the other guy!”

The second-hardest part was in realizing the waste.  My God, what a waste.  We had put in a couple of hours and a fair amount of money to get the thing going, and it was all for nothing.

Bicycles are replaceable.  Time, lives, and influence often aren’t.  I’ve lived a lot of my life in the same kind of rhythm and speed my father and I displayed on that summer afternoon.  I allow relationships, goals, or my personal life to remain idle for weeks, months, or even years – as though they were used up.  Then one day, almost on a whim, I decide to take them out and “fix them up” – not so much because they need it, but because I happen to be in the mood.  I make that long-neglected phone call, re-open that neglected Bible, or finally get around to saying, “I’m sorry.”  Once I start, it seems as though some hidden force compels me to hurry up and get there, (wherever “there” is).  To outrun the storm.  To get what I want.  What was easily-forgotten yesterday has become urgent today.  And even in the face of ominous circumstances, it’s no good to accept “wait” as an answer.  After all, I’m wasting daylight!  I convince myself I can face the rain, the pain, the danger and the strain because I’m doing something good. Something pleasing. 

Safety?  No time for that now. 

Danger?  None that I can see.

Then I take the corner just a little too fast.  Had I known what awaited me on the other side, my decisions would have been different.  Just as hindsight informs me that accidents could have been avoided, some foresight could have recognized the danger signs as well.  Instead, I outrun my ability to stop in time, and I’m left with only one choice – where to make the least painful landing.

Falling from a bicycle hurts.  Who would have thought that in a split second I could go from pleasure to pain?  But that agony is nothing compared to a fall from fellowship with God.  And the pain of failure is magnified by the fact that it is so unwanted.  Just as I didn’t set out to destroy my ten-speed, no Christian ever set out to destroy his life.  But many of us do.

Preventable?  Yes.  Predictable?  Not always. 

And the emotions!  Fear and surprise.  Relief and pain.  Anger and shame. Confusion and wounded pride. 

But the initial shock of falling isn’t the most painful part of the experience.  What hurts the most is the waiting.  Waiting to heal, waiting to get help, waiting to reestablish relationships, waiting to feel whole and clean again.  In the meantime, feeling isolated, scrutinized, alone.

Next to that, the saddest factor is the waste.  The price of failure can be so great, and its realities so unnecessary.  Our dreams of what we could become are driven to oblivion by a haunting song that begins with the words, “If only….”

Next time I’ll tell you what happened to the bike – and what I’ve learned since.

How about you?  Have you ever “taken a corner too fast,” and lived to tell about it?

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Daddy May 20, 2008 at 10:54 am

Do I ever remember that day. My chewing out the car driver was my way of being concerned that my son had possibly been hurt badly.

It is amazing how one can “see” so many dangers and perils through “hind sight.”

One thing was that I’d had such a great, fun day with you as we worked on the old bike, then you accident came crushing in.

I guess that, by your standing in the 7-11 and “enjoying” the air conditioning because of your being a drowned rat and hurting from you scratches and bruises, it must have been like someone dousing you with ice water when we meet sudden events in our life. Sometimes, I think that God sees us getting too “wrapped up” in our own thoughts and “works” that he comes along with a dose of ice water to bring us back to the main purpose, “Praising Him.”

It is amazing how a great, fun day can come to a screeching end even after experiencing one of God’s great summertime showers of rain!

Love you,

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