I don’t remember the accident. Whatever drugs they gave me erased my memory of it.
What I do know is what the witnesses said. As I rode on my motorcycle through the suburban intersection, a car came into my lane and pushed me into oncoming traffic.
When I woke two weeks later in a Level 1 trauma center, I was a mess. Six broken ribs, deflated left lung, broken clavicle, broken shoulder blade and five broken vertebrae. Worst of all, amidst all the broken bones, I had a spinal-cord injury that left me a paraplegic. The neurosurgeon told my wife that it would be a “miracle” if I ever walked again.
While I regularly pray, there can be something special about prayers offered in a chapel. Sometimes the act of making a special trip to a house of faith signifies that your prayers are especially serious, considered and come from the heart.
It was another couple of weeks before I had an opportunity to make a journey like that. Eventually, I got to the point I could get into a power wheelchair and use the joystick to motor around the vast hospital complex on my own.
It was about 6 o’clock in the evening, now about a month after the accident, when I finally made it to the hospital chapel. The lights softly illuminated the walls. The room was empty, but not lonely.
After a bit, I prayed a simple prayer: “Lord, I want to be able to walk again. I want to walk back and forth to work. I want to be able to travel. I want to run and play with my kids.”
The answer was immediate, but not what I expected. There was no healing, no return of feeling or function. Instead, I was given an amazing sense of peace. There was no question in my mind that during the dark hours of this tragedy, I was loved.
A couple of days later, I was sent home to recuperate. Over time, the bones healed, but my spinal cord did not. That was eight years ago.
I still work. I drive myself around with hand controls. I travel across the country and around the world. I even ran in the primary for Illinois State Senate this spring. I have refused to let my injury slow me down. In fact, my wife jokes that she wishes I could walk again so she could keep up with me.
While I wish this tragedy had never happened, or that I would have fully recovered from it, I can’t dispute the fruit it has produced. I’m more compassionate with others. I care less about what I want, and more about what the Lord wants. And I pray with a conviction and vitality that I never had before.
What I learned is that this life isn’t for our comfort. Instead, the purpose of this life is that we become conformed to the image of Christ. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen when everything is unicorns and rainbows. It instead happens when life is tough, when we are forced to rely upon God through prayer just to make it through the day. That is when he is most at work in our lives molding us into who he designed us to be.
My prayers are different today than they were eight years ago. Back then, I looked at God like Santa Claus. I asked him to send nice things my way. Now, I have one prayer that I pray more than any other: “Lord, may I be able to say at the end of today that I was faithful.”
That new temperament has made all the pain worthwhile.
• Dan McConchie is vice president of government affairs at Americans United for Life. On March 15, he won the Republican primary for Illinois’ 26th Senate District.
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