D.C. Collier: Cultivating a Grateful Heart | Homes & Lifestyle

I awoke with a jolt. Something was wrong, very wrong. I was in the middle, squeezed between buddies on either side of me in the back seat of a hopped-up Chevy and we were spinning out of control.

The crazy squealing of our tires indicated that we were only intermittently in contact with the pavement. The three guys in the front seat, including the driver, were also helpless passengers, waiting for the “big crunch” that would bring this sudden nightmare to a halt.

It was pitch black outside as we careened along a country road somewhere in the middle of Indiana trying to make the Indy 500 race by morning.

We rolled over, ending up on our side in a ditch, but no grinding crash. We were piled on top of one another inside, shaken, but miraculously only a few cuts and bruises.

We were “lucky.” Very.

Our driver had fallen asleep at the wheel and missed a tight turn at very high speed. We were high school seniors who thought ourselves immortal until that reality-altering moment.

I was recently reminded of that near-tragedy in my life when reading in the news about a similar crash last month that didn’t end so well.

As The Associated Press reported, “Indiana State University announced Sunday that three students died in a single-vehicle accident … five people were in the vehicle when it crashed, including several football players … the crash occurred around 1:30 am Sunday in Riley, Indiana. The vehicle left the roadway and hit a tree.”

That could have just as easily been us those many years ago.

I’ve had many such near-misses in my life, and I’ll bet many of you have, too. Yet here we are, with another day to live.

Do you realize that every day, hour, minute is a gift? That every breath, heartbeat, or brainwave comes by permission of God?

We are contingent beings who can’t exist apart from countless, exquisitely precise variables coming out exactly right. For me, there could have been a massive tree in that Indiana field instead of a few cornstalks.

We all have an appointment with “our hour.”

In a particularly poignant moment in Jesus’ public ministry, when religious opposition was reaching a crescendo, we read in John 8:20, “These words He (Jesus) spoke in the treasury, as He taught in the temple area; and no one arrested Him, because His hour had not yet come.”

My Bible teacher Bill MacDonald used to say, “We are immortal until God calls us home.”

By that he meant, nothing can end our lives until our appointed time, and conversely, nothing can save us once our hour has come. Our “tickets are punched” in heaven, in advance, and no power on earth can change it.

So, how then should we live?

As written in Psalm 90:12, “So, teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.”

In my days mentoring men at the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission, we learned that the surest mark of a man who is recovering from addiction is a distinct attitude of gratefulness — no blaming others, no victim mentality, no entitlement.

Gratefulness looks away from itself to others, and particularly to God who has spared us from death countless times so that we would ultimately “present to God a heart of wisdom.”

We are all, to some degree, afflicted with an attitude of entitlement. We tend to take things for granted and to some degree believe “the world owes me a living.”

When reality falls short of our expectations, we get angry and disappointed. At those times, gratefulness is the furthest thought from our minds.

It is then that we should ask, “What could have happened, but didn’t when recalling close calls in the past. Then thank God for sparing us to live another day … gratefully.

As I wrote this article, I was watching two young mothers with their rollicking toddlers next to me. Those tiny creatures were like miniature wrecking balls apart from the watchful eyes of their seemingly omniscient mothers.

Nothing lastingly bad was going to happen on their watch — maybe a few scratches or bruises, but that’s it.

God is like that with you and me, lovingly running interference, so we can play freely and safely.

How About You?

Have you ever thanked God for your next heartbeat? Next time you have a near-miss, will you thank God that it was not “your time,” yet? It will be some day.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”
— 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

— DC Collier is a Bible teacher, discipleship mentor and writer focused on Christian apologetics. A mechanical engineer and internet entrepreneur, he is the author of My Origin, My Destiny, a book focused on Christianity’s basic “value proposition.” Click here for more information, or contact him at [email protected]. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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