It happened in the middle of winter during my senior year of high school. I offered to drive that evening, which was out of the ordinary. My friend usually took us everywhere, but my mom offered me the car and I wanted to be the chauffeur for once. She called out for me to be careful. I heeded her words with all the intensity of a typical teenage girl. I batted my hand about, deflected her warning, and left the house, laughing.
We drove to the meeting, enjoyed our time, and then it finished. I was nursing a broken heart and the boy who had broken said heart was at the meeting. I was looking to impress him. Anything to catch his attention and let him know he’d blown it with a great girl.
Once inside the car, ready to drive home, I noticed the two guys in the truck next to me. The passenger was my infamous heart breaker. I revved the engine and challenged them to a race. I sped down the narrow dark street. My speed-demon automobile was a two-door box-like thing with rear wheel drive. The three-lane road, which afforded us two lanes to race down, merged into one, cutting off the asphalt.
Without thought or experience to draw from, I slammed on my brakes. The car swerved. I clenched my teeth and braced myself. What happened next is still a blur.
The car fishtailed. I over-corrected and everything spun out of control. We dove off an embankment and slammed nose first into a granite rock. Streaming water underneath my car was all the motivation we needed to push our way out of the smashed box. We thought the car was going to explode. Turns out a creek was running underneath.
The heartbreaker and his friend rushed down the street and hauled us out of the embankment. They comforted us, or at least tried to. The one I was trying to impress was not impressed. Someone called the aid car, someone else called the police, someone else managed to call a tow truck. I, with someone else’s gigantic cell-phone, called my mother and told her I was alive but her car had been in a wee little accident. She asked if I could push it out of the ditch. (I may have minimized the extremity of the accident while talking to her on the phone.)
The paramedics laid me on a gurney and velcroed a brace around my neck.
Someone called my youth pastor. He showed up right as they were putting me into the aid car and told me he was glad I was still alive. The police officer, kind and thoughtful, brought the law of the land down on my head and handed me a reckless driving ticket. Five hundred dollars. A court date would be sent to me in the mail where I’d have to defend myself to a judge.
I pretty much ruined everything that night: driving record, reputation, financial outlook, and the unimpressed boy. The consequences of that short race felt like they’d last forever.
Two months later, I went to court. The judge ordered me to go to driving school and listen to boring lectures with other lawbreakers.
A few months later, during a mission’s night at church, our guest speaker shared about how he went on a ship and sailed around the world telling people about God.
Sitting on my youth group floor, reckless driving behind me, astronomical car insurance in front of me, I knew the only way to forge through my future was to do something that did not entail driving around. I could go on a ship! I could get the heck out of Dodge, see the world, make new friends, and tell people that God loves them.
So, I applied.
They accepted my application.
Upon high school graduation, I joined Operation Mobilization and boarded the MV Logos II and for the next three years, I sailed to some remarkable places, met wonderful friends, and changed forever.
Sometimes the strength to be bold comes on the heels of awful failure.
Sometimes the worst situations, the most desperate circumstances are the very things we need to kick our butts and figure out what really matters to us.
Sometimes when all seems lost, we’re at the brink of finding the exact thing that will change the whole damn game.
Sometimes our mistakes, which hurt other people, shame ourselves, and humiliate us, become the sacred gateway onto the narrow path of goodness and redemption and beauty immeasurable.
That awful night started because I wanted to impress a boy. I ended up humiliating my mother, scaring my friend’s parents and causing huge trouble to everyone and myself. I ended up with a reputation as reckless and heedless and ultimately, paid a steep price. Five hundred dollars was a lot of money for me. Driving school. A four-year ticket on my record.
But, and this is the part that matters, that chaos and those painful consequences pushed me to make the choice that ordered my life and gave me an entirely new future. A good future.
Choose to be brave. Choose to be strong. You never know where it will lead.