I Was T-Boned at 120 mph. The Accident Left Me Hanging Lifeless, But Jesus Didn’t
by: Britten Olinger
This week’s guest writer is Britten Olinger. He is the track-and-field coach at Montreat College in Montreat, NC.
What if I told you that by the time you turn 31, you would be married to your love, have an eight-month-old daughter, have a new job as head track-and-field coach at a college, and will have just bought your first home? And, oh yeah, your wife is going to be six weeks pregnant with your son? But what if I also told you that on that day, everything will come to a screeching halt for you, literally?
It was March 23 when the drug-induced haze and fog began to lift, and my first memories of life after the accident begin. One month had passed since I was driving home on the evening of February 27, 2017, when I was hit by another driver in the center of the town intersection. He had run a red light, T-boning me. He had been driving 120 mph in a 20 mph speed zone. The accident left me hanging lifeless by my seat belt out of my open door.
After a month of ICU and a week of uncertainty as to whether or not I would even survive, I was left coming to grips with my new life — living as a quadriplegic. I was paralyzed at C7 (from the chest down), I had a brachial plexus injury in my left arm (so it was of no use) and a traumatic brain injury.
A few weeks into rehab at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, I completely broke down. I lost it. It was all too much — the emotional and mental toll of this new life. My best friends and their wives had just left from visiting and eating dinner with us, and I broke down, sobbing uncontrollably. Everything that I had known and everything that I had pictured for myself as a husband, father, son, brother … everything was utterly altered.
I was so angry and so hurt, but I did not know at whom. I tried so hard to be so angry with the other driver, who caused the accident, but I couldn’t for some reason. Emotionally I could not get mad, and while laying in my hospital bed at night, I would get so upset for not being able to be angry at him. I even tried turning my emotions onto myself, placing the blame on me. Had I left sooner or later to get home. I even thought, “What if I had not survived? Maybe my family would not have to deal with me being a cripple.” But, every time my mind would try to drift there, it was always roped back in. It was as if any rage or hurt toward anything was blocked off.
However, one area where my emotions did run rampant was in my anger toward God. He let me express my anger and gave me space to grapple with my emotions. He also never wavered in his commitment to me. The harder I kicked at, screamed at, and cursed at him, the tighter he held onto me. It was as if He was saying, “Put it all on me. I can take it. You don’t have to carry this, let me.”
Over time, God allowed me to emotionally heal and move forward without the pain of hatred and hurt. He gave me a chance to forgive and receive grace. God showed me what dying to self looked like, and it looked like the Cross. His son Jesus knowingly and willingly endured one of the most brutal deaths, all to say, “You know all that crap you have done? You’re good! Don’t worry about it, I’ll take the fall for you. Let’s move forward together.” Jesus, even though he didn’t deserve my anger, embraced my anger and my wrath, and only pulled me in closer so I could move forward. It was through His sacrifice I was able to forgive.
There is so much in this life we have to endure, but bitterness, anger, and hurt towards others shouldn’t be one of them. Being a quadriplegic is hard enough without living with hatred that would have consumed me. Had not Jesus taken the burden of my bitterness, anger, and pain on himself, I don’t know where I would be.
Thank you, Jesus!