A New Perspective/Out of My Control

A father and son give testimony to God's goodness

By and

A New Perspective

I came into my senior year in the best physical shape of my life. I was proud and arrogant—ready to be a varsity football player who demanded respect from everyone. But God had a different idea.

I blew out my left knee, tearing my anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus cartilage. It was the first real injury of my life; until then, I believed I was unstoppable, and for some reason I thought it was by my power that I was strong. After 5 months of rehabilitation, during which I watched others play the last year of the game I loved, I felt I was changed and had learned an important lesson in humility and patience.

In the spring, I found success in track and placed fourth in the state for the 4×800. Then I blew out my right knee right at the height of track season. I was discouraged and tried to come back, but my coach said no. Once again, I felt lost and depressed. I love athletics—it is a place where I can compete with anyone. I feel that God has enabled me in many ways to be successful through it, though I feel like I was never given the chance to be a great athlete. With sports out of the picture, I was forced to focus on other things like my family and God.

I was scheduled for knee surgery, but before the operation, I went on a motorcycle trip to Tennessee with friends and my dad. On the second day, before we reached our destination, I hit a guardrail at about 60 miles per hour. I slid on my back next to my flipping bike and then felt the post of the guardrail move right through my side. Before I went down, I thought about death.

One thing with motorcycles is few people ever wreck more than once. I can’t fully describe the pain that I experienced. I lay on my side, my body just broken, and, of course, my dad was the first to get to me. I looked into my father’s eyes and said “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” It hurt so much to breath, I considered holding my breath so that maybe I would pass out and it wouldn’t hurt so much. I fought for air for what it felt like eternity. My last memory was lifting off in the Flight for Life helicopter as the medic tried to reinflate my lung.

I was flown to the University of Tennessee Hospital, where I was treated for multiple broken ribs, a collapsed lung and a lacerated spleen. In the hospital, I had a week to dwell on the God’s goodness and rejoice in His protection. I realize if I had taken the guardrail to the back, I would be crippled; if I had taken it to the front, I probably would have died

It’s hard to take many things for granted now. The e-mails and news of everyone’s prayers encouraged me to grow stronger in the Lord and to get stronger physically. I read the novel The Shack in the hospital, and I feel closer to God, the Son and the Holy Spirit than I ever have before. God’s love is real, and I’ve experienced it first hand. For some reason, I have been gifted a second chance, and I would be a fool not to learn from everything that has happened and not to grow stronger because of it. God is good.

—Jacob Turnbull is 18 years old and is majoring in engineering at a university.

Out of My Control

The past 18 months have been a time of tremendous struggle for me and my family. I have battled Epstein-Barr virus, and my son, Jacob, had several sports-related injuries during his senior year of high school. In addition, certain parts of ministry at Alleghany (Pa.) Center C&MA Church were weighing heavily on me, and I allowed myself to fall into work habits that were unhealthy. I’ve never wept so much or felt God’s grace so completely.

My wife, Sheri, encouraged me to follow my heart and break the cycle of workaholism that had stolen my joy. Motorcycles have always been my hidden passion, and God affirmed to us that this was His method for rescuing me. So I took the plunge, bought a used motorcycle with every safety feature available and carefully refined my riding skills.

Then Jacob wanted to ride with me! The turmoil was intense, but God asked, Do you trust Me? I bought Jacob a used bike, and he followed me everywhere as he learned motorcycle skills. I knew he had the athletic ability to outride me anywhere, but I also knew it would be a battle to control his self-confidence. We had some tremendous father/son rides and really great conversations during our rest stops.

We planned a summer ride to Tennessee with a small group of other bikers. I was looking forward to a father/son time away to enjoy friends, God’s creation and the thrill of motorcycling through a beautiful setting, but God had bigger plans.

On the second day, I fell behind the larger group as I rode with Birk, who was taking his time enjoying the beautiful Smokey Mountain views. I really struggled not being up ahead with my son, but God spoke clearly again, Do you trust Me enough to accept that no matter what happens today, I am in control? I sensed that Jacob might crash because he was riding at a quick pace in an unforgiving area. God gave me complete peace that no matter what happened, He would take care of Jacob. It was truly out of my control. My 18-year-old son was being tested, and I had to let God do His work. I rested in Him, praying that my son would not be hurt.

Birk and I caught up with group at the first rest stop, so I was able to position myself directly behind Jacob as he followed Chuck and Zak up the sweeping mountain road. It was an exhilarating ride that really stretched me since my touring bike is slower and heavier than the three sport bikes I was following.

I would lose sight of Jacob on each bend as they slowly pulled away, so I was horrified to find Chuck and Zak pulled over later without Jacob. We rushed back to the last bend. Jacob was lying beside a post with his bike crashed nearby. He was moving his legs but was obviously badly hurt. I cradled his head between my knees and held his hands, crying out to God for Jacob’s life as he struggled to breath. I can honestly say that I sensed peace that God would either take him to a joyful reunion in heaven or refine his character for work on earth. It was up to God, not me.

As you know from Jacob’s testimony, God miraculously saved his life and has given him a new perspective of his humanity and God’s grace. For me, it has been a week of tears and transparency with God and my son, at the crash site, during the lonely two-hour motorcycle ride to the hospital, weeping over him as he awoke in the hospital saying “I love you Dad” and five days of sitting by hospital bed staying by myself in a hotel, returning to the crash site to face my fears and photographing it for Jacob to remember.

I can honestly say God has been trustworthy, but my emotions feel like they’ve been run through a washing machine. Long walks in the woods, Bible reading and praying have been a critical discipline over the past 18 months, and their importance has only been heightened now. Please pray that I get everything God has for me during this time and I don’t relapse with Epstein Barr syndrome in my exhaustion and work responsibilities. Pray for Sheri as she has had to nurse Jacob and me through these trials.

You can’t have a testimony without a test. God answered my prayers for Jacob and is restoring him to full health, but more importantly, Jacob is more deeply in love with his Savior. God is good!

—Ken Turnbull has been the pastor of Advancement/Operations at Allegheny (Pa.) Center Alliance Church since 1985.

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