I will never forget the impact one man had on my life. He never spoke a word to me. He never looked me in the eye. I am pretty sure that he never even knew I existed, I had met him or how he impacted my life.
It all happened one weekend many years ago when Lisa and I went on a three-day getaway trip to Panama City Beach, Florida, with some longtime friends of ours, Ray and Sherry Boyd. We were on our way back home, just north of Bonifay when we topped a hill and met another vehicle swerving all over the road and headed right for us.
Just as we topped the hill and saw it was out of control and going to hit us, Ray instinctively went off the road to avoid the head-on collision. The SUV slung gravel all over our car as it barely missed us before it swerved in the opposite direction and began to flip several times before resting on its side against some pine trees on the opposite side of the road.
Lisa and I were sitting in the backseat when the SUV passed us. While Ray was trying to keep control of our car on the roadside, I turned and witnessed the entire horrific flipping episode going on behind us. On the second or third flip, I saw something fly out of the SUV and hit about 15-20 feet up in the pine trees before falling back to the ground.
I was active-duty military at the time and knew first aid. As soon as we were able to get stopped, I ran to the crash scene to see what I could do to help. When I got there, I found a man lying unconscious on the ground. He was what I had seen fly out of the vehicle and hit high up in the trees. Another young man, the driver of the SUV, was unharmed and kneeling over the unconscious young man begging for him to wake up.
Because his lips were turning blue, it was obvious he was not breathing; although he did have a pulse. Again, as a result of my training, I opened his mouth to see if he was swallowing his tongue or if there was anything I could find obstructing his airway.
Now here is where I need to help you see the entire picture before finishing this story. The young man, the uninjured driver, was clean-cut, sober and seemed to be a good guy just trying to help a friend who was having a hard time. In the process, he had gone to where his friend was, picked him up, put him in his SUV and was taking him home. While he was giving his friend a ride, he accidently went off the road and jerked the wheel to get back on the highway causing him to lose control, resulting in this terrible accident.
However, his friend, the unconscious one, was the epitome of filth! He was unshaven, unkempt and reeked with the odor of old urine, body odor and alcohol. He stunk as bad as anyone I had ever been around, really to the point of making me nauseated. It was obvious he had not bathed in days or weeks and had been drunk for probably as long.
As I said earlier, he still had a heartbeat, but his lips were turning blue because he was not able to breathe (though he was trying). I knew he had to get oxygen to live, but something was blocking his airway. As I opened his mouth to cleanse his airway or begin breathing for him, what I saw stopped me in my tracks. His mouth and throat were half full of blood, tobacco juice and other fluids. If his teeth had ever been brushed, you would not have known it. I opened his eyelids, just to see that both eyeballs were collapsed. I felt the back of his neck and realized it was obviously crushed.
There was no way I could tilt his body or turn his head to clear his airway without killing him instantly. The only way I could help him and the only hope of saving his life was for me to suck the fluids out of his throat and into my own mouth and spit it out over and over again until I could get enough of it out that he could get air on his own. I knew there was no way I could get all this blood and filth out his throat without having to swallow some of it just because I would have to suck so hard. If he did not get oxygen and get it now – he was sure to die!
The first thought to cross my mind, besides just the grossness of the sight, was, "He has been drunk for so long that there is no way he knows where he has been, what he has done or who he has done it with. If I get his blood in my mouth, lungs or stomach, there is no telling what disease I may catch!"
At that moment, though, I had the training and knew what had to be done and how to do it to give him a chance at life. I made a conscious decision that I was not willing to risk my life to save his! He was probably going to die anyway, I rationalized, but I was there! I was the only one who had a chance of saving his life. However, what I most remember is telling his friend, "You suck and I will hold his head still and do compressions if his heart quits."
What if Freddy (I later found out his name) had been a clean-cut, respectable-looking person … perhaps a young mother with children in the car or a husband with his wife in the car? What if it had been a friend of mine, a family member or one of my own children who was just on a casual drive and had an accident and needed my help in this way? I believe and I hope I would react differently and do whatever was needed to preserve life. But Freddy? He was just a drunk, too filthy, too repulsive, too much of a risk and too far gone for me to even risk my life for, much less to give my life for!
It was not until sometime later when I was basking in my being Christ-like that the Holy Spirit reminded me of this opportunity with Freddy and my failure to even risk my life to save his. He reminded me and convinced me that in the eyes of a Holy God, before accepting and putting my faith in what Jesus has done for me, my life looked just like Freddy’s. In God’s eyes, Freddy’s and my sinful conditions were indistinguishable.
My sinful nature, my thoughts and actions, even my pride and self-righteousness, made me totally undeserving and unworthy of His love. My sin is filthy and repulsive in His sight and makes me absolutely and unquestionably disqualified for His love – yet even while I was a sinner, even while I was filthy and stinking and was totally outside of His will, helpless and dying, He loved me enough to send His only Son not to risk His life, but to suffer and give His life in my place, to pay the penalty for my sin and to purchase for me forgiveness and eternal life! He shed His own blood to wash me clean and make me just as acceptable to Himself as His Son Jesus. Not only did He cleanse me but He continues to keep me clean, even when I stray or fall!
I would not risk my life for someone like Freddy, but God gave His life to save someone like me, like Freddy and like you! You cannot be good enough that you do not need the forgiveness and salvation only Jesus can give, and there is nothing so bad you have done or ever will do that Jesus did not die to forgive and to cleanse! He gave His life for us, because it was the only way for any of us to be reconciled to God and to inherit eternal life.
"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9 ESV) What better way to start the new year than to confess your sin and accept God’s forgiveness for yourself? When you see a Freddy, realize he/she is just like you were!