When I was 17, I was in a car crash that would change the course of my life. It brought me to nothing, and then God made me new.
It was July 5, 1995, and I was throwing a party at my parents' house. After years of anxiety and depression, a recent breakup, and growing discontent with life, I coped in the way I had done many times before and turned to alcohol. I was fed up with my friends, my family, and myself. This particular night I became more upset with each passing hour.
Around 1 a.m., I had an overwhelming urge to leave the party. Although my friends tried to stop me—they knew that I had been drinking for hours—I grabbed the keys and got into my 1995 Z28 Camaro. My friends used their cars to block me in, but once they left me alone to cool off, I managed to jump the curb, get around their cars, and drive away.
As I sped through our neighborhood in a Houston suburb, emptiness and hopelessness consumed me. I couldn't think straight. I wanted to be as far from home as possible; at the same time, all I wanted was to be home. When I approached the road that led out of our neighborhood, it struck me that it was foolish to drive farther. I didn't want my friends to worry, and I certainly didn't want to get in trouble with my parents, so I turned to go home.
I woke up covered in glass, a deployed airbag lying lifeless in my lap. As the fog cleared, I was able to make out a huge hole in my windshield. A sharp metallic smell mixed with the pungent odor of car fluids. Suddenly a friend was opening the passenger side door. And I remembered what had just happened. "Who did I hit?!" I screamed over and over.
"You didn't hit anyone, just some trees," he assured me. He dragged me from the car and put me down in the grass as I continued to panic.
"No, I hit somebody! Who did I hit?!" I kept trying to sit up as Blake ran past me to the front of my car. He looked down. Then he ran to get help.
Other people began jumping the fence separating my parents' cul-de-sac and the road I was lying next to. Chaos erupted in the strange silence as I fought to stay conscious lying in the grass. I heard screaming and crying. Someone was yelling, "He's not breathing!"
Soon fire trucks, an ambulance, and police vehicles were lighting up the night. As they put me in the ambulance, I heard my sister let out an awful, bloodcurdling scream as the ambulance doors closed. She had arrived on the scene, saw my car, and thought I was dead.
I was taken to the hospital, where I laid for a few hours. A tall state trooper walked into my hospital room. "Son, I need to have your blood tested. There's been a fatality."
Finally, someone answered my questions. My friend John had been in the street when I came around a slight curve near my house. He had raised his hands, trying to stop the out-of-control Camaro, and had crashed through my windshield. He died on impact.
Before the accident, I thought my life was falling apart. After the accident, I wanted to die. Yet it was there, in the deepest, dirtiest, darkest pit of my despair, that God began to make himself known to me.
I was raised in a "Christian" family that attended church off and on. I prayed, sang the worship songs, and believed that I would go to heaven. But for the few years leading up to the crash, especially as I faced depression and anxiety, I questioned whether the faith was true. The Christians I knew either went to church but then abused drugs and alcohol the way I did, or went to church and didn't talk to people like me. Either way, if their faith made any difference at all, it was too small a difference to interest me.