Ten years ago today I should have died. In a freak family hiking accident, I slipped, slid, and plummeted THIRTY FEET headfirst off a cliff onto a boulder. In reflecting on this traumatic event, I can truthfully say this horror has been transformed into one of the best things that ever happened to me. It seems the very worst things in life will be made the most glorious when we trust God is on our side and the Universe is rigged in our favor, that’s how good the Divine Economy is!
On November 10th2008 I was an officer in the U.S. Air Force living the American Dream. I made more money than most people, owned a nice house, got to fly for a living, travelled a lot, and had a prestigious job. More importantly, though, I was viewed as one of the elites in the military, so was on the fast track to command positions and high ranks (I hesitate to say this, but do so with humility as it’s part of the larger point I’m getting to). While my thirty-foot fall didn’t kill my body that day, it did end my career, as a severe Traumatic Brain Injury, the loss of all my depth perception and peripheral vision, and seizure disorder (among other things), left me unable to fly for a living anymore.
(This pic of me was a few days after the accident)
You know how when we meet a new person one of the first questions we generally ask is, “what do you do?” While there’s nothing at all wrong with this query, it does get at a deeper question and issue: Who are you? While society and our egos tell us our achievements, titles, possessions, income, etc. define us, this isn’t really true. These fleeting, temporary, and changeable categories comprise our secondary or “false” self, while our True Self is stable, secure, and lasting.
Because of my near death experience and the Air Force medically retiring me, I lost much of what I “thought” identified and defined me. You could correctly say my false self was forcibly killed … which left me with nothing but my True Self. Before I get to what I mean by that, I’ll pause to note this wasn’t an instantaneous or quick process, as the temptation to find my significance and worth in titles and achievements is strong, but was/is a lengthy journey involving therapists, self-reflection, prayer, conversations, studies, and more.
If you’ve ever meditated or practiced yoga, the True Self is the peaceful and joyful you experienced as the mind quiets and you enjoy the bliss of being. The True Self is who the Divine says you are, it’s the Spirit dwelling in you, it’s the you who sees yourself in others and other people in you, it’s the you minus boundaries and boarders (connected to God, others, and the world), it’s the you touched by and filled with divine Love. The real you and me is us minus all our doings and possessions, it’s our naked being.
The day I should have died is the spark God used to show me who I really am. As I look back on my life, I can see how every single crummy experience in my life was changed into a celebration when I trusted the transformative goodness of God … WITHOUT EXCEPTION. My first divorce made me way less selfish and more loving, a miscarriage helped me become more tender and compassionate, my second divorce gave me eyes to see the good in all people, failing to become a pastor at church allowed me to thrive more than I ever thought was possible as a yoga teacher, and I could go on.
(Here I am doing “better” after nearly two months in the ICU)
God’s ways are so exceptionally good that in Jesus’ death on the cross, the Divine took the worst thing, the “killing of God”, and made it into the best thing—the redemption of the world! With that in mind, I wonder what things that were tragic for you have been, or could be, changed into a triumph by Love’s most excellent harmonies? More often than not, it takes the transformative power of suffering to reveal our True Selves to us, so I’ll finish with a follow question: Who are you? I’m beloved, beautiful, and blissful because that’s what God says about us, how our heavenly Parent sees you and I, and what our Source will endlessly fill us with. May the goodness of God fill, define, and transform each of us!
Grace and peace,