October 3rd I was driving around a sharp turn near the Poca River and hit a patch of wet road. The back end of the car fishtailed and I could not get it under control before it spun around and dropped backwards over the hillside. I gripped the steering wheel and screamed as the car rolled over once on its side and landed back onto its wheels. I remember seeing everything outside spiral as the passenger side of my windshield cracked. CDs, books, cups, papers, all were tossed around and dropped in random places (“You have so much crap in your car,” my wife would say.) As if leaping to safety, my glasses dove off my face and into the floor. My first reaction once the car landed (once I stopped screaming) was to check myself. No blood, no pain (yet), no scratches, no bumps. My next reaction: I said a shaky and terrified prayer, praising God that I was still alive and unharmed. And then… I cried. I blubbered and sobbed while muttering, “Thank you, Jesus, thank you, oh, Lord, thank you.”
Almost two weeks later, I was surprised by tears as I watched Indy car racer Dan Wheldon’s fellow competitors weeping after learning that he did not survive the 15-car crash that occurred that day. I don’t watch Indy racing. My wife and I were waiting for the local news. I had no idea who Dan Wheldon was. So why was I crying? Was it because Wheldon was only a year older than I? Was it because Wheldon was married with two very young children? Was it because I had been in a crash of my own and survived? I don’t think it matters why. I think it matters that I was so overwhelmed with compassion. For Dan Wheldon. For his family. For his competitors.
The Bible repeatedly asks followers of Jesus to become more Christ-like, to pursue holiness. I used to have a problem with this. I used to feel wrong about trying to be Jesus. No one can be Jesus. Jesus was perfect, pure, sinless, divine. How can I compare to that? How can I emulate Christ when I am far from perfect? I have made so many mistakes, selfish mistakes that reflect my tendency to put myself above others. I am haunted by the expression I am my father’s son. I am nothing like Jesus. But the Bible says, “For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (Hebrews 10:14 NIV). Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, I am being made holy. Even more comforting is 2 Corinthians 3:18, which reminds me that even though I may make mistakes, I am “being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory.”
I’m not sure when this transformation started in me, but there was a time when I would not have shed any tears for Dan Wheldon or his friends and family. But watching them on TV, seized by grief, something stirred in me and I was “moved with compassion.”