How a Near Death Experience Buckled My Knees and Made Me Grateful: Thoughts on Being Spared

Becca Stevens

I didn’t ever give much weight to phrase “I have been spared” until last Saturday morning when I had an undramatic/dramatic experience. Before the idea of “being spared” seemed like a theologically charged concept which condemned others. But on that morning I understood, for a moment, the freedom that being spared offers.

There was a pelting rain as an SUV, traveling from the opposite direction on the interstate, literally flew through the air, right by my window. It landed between my car and the one behind me, missing everyone, before it slammed into the guardrail on the shoulder. It was like being in a 3-D adventure movie — it was surreal and loud. Cars came to a screeching halt behind me. All I could do was to keep on driving, shaking like the interstate was now a slippery balance beam.

I felt the words penetrating my heart — I have been spared.

This thought had nothing to do with thinking people who don’t miss the car flying by are not in God’s eternal embrace of grace. My own father, a faithful pastor, died in a horrible car crash like the one I had just missed. The thought was just an overwhelming feeling of being spared the horror and pain that life can dole out.

I left the scene unscathed, not by any great deed or skill of my own doing. No wounds, no rushing to the emergency room. No phone call by the state trooper to my husband or kids that would alter their lives. My youngest could remain in his childhood cocoon playing a video game on a Saturday morning. My husband could finish the lawn without interruption. My oldest kids could keep planning for the evening that holds their focus and joy like the anticipation of fireworks. And all I could do was keep going. There was no one to share this moment.

*Photo by CTD, Creative Commons

It felt like a private miracle that I was not a second later on my drive. If I had stopped to pick up that stray piece of paper I noticed before my husband started mowing, or had refilled my teacup. If I had even waited a second before pulling out of the drive, a car flying 50 miles an hour on the interstate perpendicular to me would have hit me. I assume if I had lived after the crash that I would have been rushed nearby to Vanderbilt Hospital where my congregation and family would have prayed for a miracle. But instead I felt the gift of being spared — the grace of life that comes in waves and carries us to joyful shores.

Sometimes the reality of all the pardon and renewal that have been given us just floods over us like the hard rain cascading that Saturday morning on the interstate. When we remember that indeed we have been spared by graced-filled seconds that last a life time, we can renew our promise to live in gratitude. When we take a moment and recount all the times we have been spared, known and unknown, it buckles our knees and sends our spirits singing.

Truly our whole lives are a gift we cannot squander. How we live from this day forward is our gratitude. By the grace of God we have been forgiven everything and spared. Let us give thanks. Alleluia!

Becca Stevens

Becca Stevens

Becca Stevens is an Episcopal priest and founder of Magdalene & Thistle Farms, a community and social enterprise that stands with women recovering from trafficking, prostitution, addiction and life on the streets. Pick up a copy of her latest book, Snake Oil: The Art of Healing and Truth-Telling , on Thistle Farm's Website.