Rev. Rachel Helgeson
October 18, 2020 - "In Broken Places"
It's amazing how something can happen so quickly and bring back a memory that you thought you had either gotten over or figured out how to deal with in a flash. I had this experience recently while my Dad and I were driving on the highway to pick up some supplies. We were in an area where there were several cars merging on or off or getting ready to take a turn to get off the highway to the next stop in Binghamton. There wasn't much room except that "less than a car space" New Yorkers like to leave for each other between cars. Out of nowhere this semi-truck was carrying the front of the truck – a tractor – started to zoom into the highway weaving in between cars and into the 1.5 spaces of car space that would not fully fit a semi-truck in front of where my Dad was driving.
My Dad, a pastor emeritus, who uses made up curse words out of both his Southern Gentility and pastoral politeness yells Dad-Jim-It that guy just came out of nowhere!!
Until that moment, I was in social media zombie land on my phone… awoken to my father's polite expletives to see the semi-truck come in from the right side of our vehicle barely squeezing in, in front of our car as my Dad slowed down, barely stepping out of the way of being side swiped on the left front side of the car… and as we finally take a sigh of relief to note that the truck made it in – we were – safe…
I found my heart beating faster than maybe it should…
It was that very instance that I remembered about 3 years ago, 2 months before accepting the call to Northminster… how I was driving over an overpass in Southern Illinois after leaving a beautiful fall lunch with some of my clergy friends – who helped me think through next steps – liturgy – presbytery – and all things babies as my then 3 month old son was in the car.
The overpass was a bridge that went over a major highway that connected from Chicago to Memphis Tennessee, driving through the rural parts of Illinois and Kentucky. I had the right of way coming from town to go on to the highway from the overpass but needed to go over the bridge to make my turn off. Oncoming traffic from the highway had stop signs both ways to wait for those on the overpass to cross first. And while I can be known for sometimes having a lead foot in certain situations, I was a mother to a 3-month-old and was taking every precaution with him at the time. If anything, I may have been going under the speed limit.
In that split second that the semi-truck was coming on to the overpass to cross over, he drove through the stop sign and beamed right into the front corner of my white kia minivan sending the car into a tail spin doing 3 or 4 full circles into the beam that overlooked the highway below the bridge.
Before this had all transpired I had been on my hands free device talking with my spouse who only heard me yelling like I yelled that time he made me try a roller coaster I knew I wouldn't like before getting on – a scream of panic – despair – and fear. The scream stopped and he didn't know what happened.
I had in the meantime opened the door once the car finally stopped moving – worried for my child – running around to the other side to pull him out and make sure he was ok.
Which he was. I held him closely to my chest. Rattled. Confused. Scared. Adrenaline pumping through my veins.
People had witnessed what had happened. 911 was called. A police officer arrived asking questions of me and the truck driver – who he learned was just trying to use the overpass to quickly pass traffic – hadn't had much sleep as the truck driver was still in his pjs – and was on his way back to Canada where he was from. One of the onlookers asked what I needed and I mentioned my phone and to let my spouse know what had happened and where we were going. Chris quickly went to pick up our daughter from daycare and came up to the hospital while one of my clergy friends who had been at lunch with us came to the hospital and held Isaac, who was fine, while I was checked out.
It took 2 years to get everything straightened out with the insurance companies since we moved from Illinois to New York and the driver was Canadian which brought in international laws into the equation.
Once in a while I would have an ache in my upper back that reminded me of the incident, but ultimately I felt like I was fine.
But in that split second on the highway in Binghamton it all came flooding back.
Even the part where I was released from the hospital and we took a look at the totaled vehicle that had a bubble over my seat and over Isaac's, and if Sophie had been in the car, she would no longer be with us today. This was nothing short of a miracle – that the truck driver didn't hit me head on – that the car didn't go over the bridge – and that there were bubbles of protection over my seat and Isaac's seat.
Colossians 1 points out that Christ is in and through all things from the beginning to the end. If we can be transported so quickly in the blink of an eye to a high intensity memory because of something similar happening to us in our own lives, isn't it possible for Christ to be in and through all things in all time and space?
And as Colossians continues, can't Christ pull everything together? The parts of the world and the parts of ourselves that are more than together that we don't really think about because they work. Or more often than not the parts of the world and ourselves that are broken and need to be pulled back together like a jigsaw but put together in a different way?
I personally think it is possible. I personally know that God cares for us in ways that we can never ever imagine. And while what happened to Christ being born – living – dying horribly – returning through the resurrection – ascending – and becoming the head of the church – Christ, too, had lived through these unexplainable moments. The moments that transcend time and space – that return to the forefront of our memory in the broken places that we thought that we had patched together like a patchwork quilt.
But if we are truly honest with ourselves, these broken places are what make us beautiful and strong and resilient. They are not meant to be forgotten, but to be remembered like we follow the Christian year – remembering Christ's birth, Christ's life, Christ's death, resurrection, and ascension – listening to God's story that started long before us and will continue long after us in and through broken people like the apostle Paul who recognizes his own shortcomings in this letter while pointing towards the one who has and always will be there for us lived out in the winds of the Holy Spirit that have breathed life through all of Creation from the beginning to the end.
It begs the question – what things are you holding on to that you are holding on tightly within yourself? Are there things that you wish you could forget or hide from even yourself? Do these things come to the forefront at the least likely times? Do you wish they would go away or do you pay attention to what is being said to you in that brokenness?
Whatever it is, know that God is with you. That you are enough as you are. In all the broken pieces. In all the broken places. In all that God has created you to be as you see the face of Christ, who has always been there and always will be there, breathing life through the Holy Spirit from the beginning to the end of time.
In Christ's Peace we say: Amen.