“Fast-forward a couple of years,” continued Kayla McMillan, “and this is where my joy really started. For several years I was in depression and nobody knew it. I had my first boyfriend and he cheated on me and it was one of those ‘Oh my gosh, nobody’s gonna like me now’ moments. After him, it just kind of crumbled, and I asked ‘God, do You even care about me?’ I remember several times asking Him, ‘Why am I here? I’m on this planet to do nothing. What am I supposed to do right now? I don’t care about anything, I have no hope.’ There was no hope for me.”
But the Lord soon answered her questions very dramatically. One day, as she drove to school, she saw a spider on the windshield of her truck. “I used my windshield wipers to get it off and it flew to the driver’s side. I rolled down the window, grabbed a water bottle, and hit it, and as I hit it I swerved. I was looking down for some reason, when all of a sudden I heard ‘Look up!’ And I thought, Okay, it’s just me in the car, but He goes, ‘Look up, look up, look up!’ and I looked up, but it was too late. I hit the guardrail, broke it completely off.” She had crossed onto a bridge the moment she swerved, and as she punched through the guardrail, missing both a tree and a sign, she threw her arm across her face and thought, This is it. This is it. This is where I die. I’m coming to see Jesus. This is it. “I flipped and I ended up upside down. I opened my eyes—it felt like hours later—but I opened my eyes right after and I thought, What’s going on right now? and there was smoke everywhere.” She realized that, miraculously, she was okay. She grabbed her phone and crawled out through the driver’s side window, now collapsed to half its original height from the six-foot drop.
A neighbor had heard the crash and called 9-1-1 as he hustled to the scene. When he arrived he asked Kayla is she was okay, and as the reality of the moment came rushing in, she started crying. The man advised her to call her parents, and on the fifth try her dad answered. Because she was so distraught, Kayla handed the phone to the neighbor, who explained what had happened. He told him to meet her at the hospital.
Soon the ambulance arrived. “I was sitting on the edge of the bridge where the guardrail was gone,” Kayla said, “and looking at all my stuff spread out everywhere. I was all muddy and blood was everywhere, and they walked up to me and said ‘What are you doing?’ and I said, ‘What do you mean?’ and he said ‘You should not be there—you should be in there.’” The emergency worker pointed at the mangled truck lying upside down in the creek bed. At that instant her neck started hurting, so they put her in a neck brace, loaded her into the ambulance, and rushed her to the hospital.
“They got all the monitors hooked up and they took X-rays, and I found out I had no broken bones, no kidney damage—everything was intact. Everything.” The neck pain, she learned later, had been caused by the stress of the situation; she had been hunching her shoulders to the point of pain. And the doctors told her that if she hadn’t flung her arm across her face as she plunged off the bridge, she would’ve ended up with a mangled face because of the flying glass.
“I had a bruise and it went away the next day. I hit my knee against the wheel and my hip against the dashboard, so I had a little bit of tenderness, but no scar. I went home and I was just kind of lying there and I heard God clearly say, ‘Do you see it now? You’re not done. There’s a reason why you’re here. I have more for you. I could’ve taken you, but I decided not to because I have more for you.’ I said, ‘Okay,’ and from then on I knew this was my turnaround. That was the climax. I need to live every day like He’s called me to, and I said, ‘I’m not gonna be depressed anymore, there’s a reason why I’m here, and I’m gonna go do what He’s called me to.’”
Since then she’s shed her depression, clothed herself in God’s mercy, and allowed Him to transform her into a living, breathing expression of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. “I just want to give other people hope—don’t give up on yourself,” she said. “Don’t let the enemy steal your joy. I know the end of the story, so why get defeated? He’s been defeated, so why do we still let him defeat us?”
With folks like Jason, Amy, and Kayla, who so readily demonstrate what it means to live joy moment-by-moment, the answer to that question is: we don’t have to. “You are the light of the world,” Jesus said. “A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16 NIV®). Indeed, each of us is called to be a light for others to glorify God and to be examples of His grace, mercy, power, love. And joy.
Copyright © 2014 by David C. Hughes