This story is about the souvenirs of God’s grace written by Betty Jane Olson, my almost-perfect mother-in-law.
Parasailing, anyone? Tennis, yes! Anything like parasailing would not be my chosen sport. However, I had been tempted by this new experience and had some fun. I tried it a few months before.
Popular in resort areas, parasailers are towed in the harness of a parachute over water behind a boat, or along a beach behind a jeep, or elsewhere and least of all in an open field behind a car or truck. I was stuck with the “least of all” simply because, virtuous as they may be in their own right, the ranch lands of Texas are not exactly Acapulco!
The morning had been overcast and windy, but by noon the sun was shining, and winds had dropped to occasional gusts. It seemed safe enough to begin parasailing. This would be my second try. On the ground behind the truck lay the tow rope, the harness, the lines, and the canopy of the parachute.
“Thou shalt not tempt the LORD,” came the thought as I was being buckled into the harness. But I could not buck down now! Everyone was waiting and watching! The canopy was lifted and billowed in the ground breezes. The signal was given to the driver, and he pulled slowly forward. A few running steps and a takeoff was the thrill I had remembered. But this time as I went up, the wind increased. At the pick of the ride when I was forty or fifty feet above the ground, a very strong gust broke the inadequate rope!
“God help me!” I prayed allowed as the canopy collapsed and I felt myself falling so fast! My feet met the ground first. Then the re-inflated canopy pulled again by the still strong wind jerked me to my back and dragged me across the field to a fence. Pain told me my back was injured so I played safe and stayed flat as I looked up to panic-stricken faces.
“Call an ambulance!” my husband pleaded of anyone. “No, don’t do that!” I cautioned. “This might be just a pulled ligament. Give me a little time, an aspirin and a heating pad.” I was stretchered into the nearest house. At the same time, I prayed, “Dear Lord, please don’t let this be serious.” I reflected on all that God had taught me, especially in the past ten years. That was when our entire family had been brought to a saving faith in Christ through our daughter who had accepted The Lord during her sophomore year in college.
The radiant change in her, and God’s patient leading through her, and then bible studies, had been a witness to each of us. Despite Christian upbringing and my love for the Lord, He showed me my need for something more…to know Him personally. I want to know how to cast my burdens upon Him and to recognize that even thoughts and attitudes which displease God are indeed what He calls “sin.” That confession is more than a formality; it is a heartfelt conviction. It is humbling before the Lord and knowing His love and forgiveness. That just being good was not my ticket to heaven. He showed me Ephesians 2:8 and 9 “for it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves. It is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.” (NIV) Whether I had known it or not, I needed that assurance of my destiny. So, by His grace, I stepped across that fine line to accept Christ as my personal Saviour and gave Him control of my life. Now, ten years later, as I lay by the hearth, there was strength and comfort in His indwelling Spirit!
Later, the intense, persistent pain made me give in to my family’s urging to let them take me to the hospital. Again, I was stretchered, this time to a board that had been cut to fit the back seat of the car. During the one hour drive, I chatted assuringly with my anxious husband and son, as the Lord gave to me all that I needed of Himself and His Word. “Peace I leave with you; mMy peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27 NIV)
Two hours and lots of x-rays later, we were told that I had a very unstable double fracture of lumbar 1, a vertebra in the small of the back and that statistically most persons with such a fracture would have gone in paraplegic. I had no paralysis at all! Doctors said it was miraculous! One said, “Darn lucky!” Another knew as we did that God in His infinite love and mercy had chosen to spare me.
I would have to have major surgery, First some decisions had to be made and for one week I was log rolled, two hours on my back, two hours on each side, turned with help as a unit, nose, knees and toes in line to avoid paralysis or further damage.
During the week a close friend asked me if I had yet shed a single tear. I had not…not just because of the medication and that everything seemed to be hunky-dory. There is always a risk in surgery. It was because Jesus had given to me through His indwelling Spirit, the study of His word, and prayer, and His peace which passes all understanding!
This would not have been so for me ten years before. I would have been worried. And guilt could have plagued me for getting myself into this mess and causing my family anxiety! Oh, it is not that I never panic or never worry. It is just that I have more peace in more circumstances than I had ever known before as I had been taught to claim His promises. How sweet it is to know that my hand is held securely in His so that when I do stumble, He can pick me up again!
Surgery was successful. Two 7- 1/2″ stainless steel rods are buried in my back. I call them my “souvenirs of God’s grace” because they remind me of how gracious He was to spare me from permanent or even temporary disability and of all the blessings He worked from experience.
Romans 8:28 became more meaningful to me than ever before, that “all things work together for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.”
There was an intercessory prayer for me among friends and family. It had brought many to their knees before Him. I learned more of how our mistakes can be useful to the Lord when we surrender our blunders to Him. My husband accepted a doctor’s invitation to attend a more extensive men’s Bible study for which he had previously thought he would not have time. God knew exactly what He would do with where I was! There was the “rest,” and God knew I needed that!
Finally, He has enabled me to serve Him and with a grateful heart…share this story…to His glory!