Crash test between a 1996 Ford Explorer and 20...

Tires squealed as we narrowly missed hitting the small white sedan in front of us. It was Monday morning and we were driving toward the on-ramp of the highway, headed to a community health center south of Boston. We looked at each other, relief on our faces when suddenly my friend looked in the mirror and shouted “Oh no!” Out of nowhere barreled a massive, grey, steel vehicle.


Metal on metal.

Heads jerking back. 

Voices raised in panic.

The SUV hit us in the rear of the car and then sideswiped the passenger side of the vehicle. It was over in seconds and we sat in the car, seat belts tight, breathing prayers and hard sighs of gratitude that no one was hurt.

Police came. Information was exchanged. Tears fell. Reports were filed. And by the time we got to our meeting we were exhausted. It had been a Monday morning collision.

The thing about car accidents is the ripple effect they have. It’s not just the collision. It’s the aftermath; the insurance hassle, the body shop, the quote from insurance, the arguing with bureaucrats for fair payment, not least the replay in our minds of steel on steel colliding. The “if only’s” that abound.

Sometimes conflicts are like serious collisions. Glass breaks, tires squeal, air bags pop out breaking teeth and bruising faces, injury is obvious. Other times conflict acts more like a fender bender, where there is seemingly minimal damage but as you leave you feel angry. The crash has made you late to work, you have to get an insurance estimate, your week has suddenly taken on urgent tasks. Furthermore, the person who hit you didn’t seem sorry.

In serious collisions we wear the damage on our bodies, emotions are raw and strong, people are in shock, emergency care is needed and the car is totaled. Serious conflicts are the same — things can never go back to where they were. The relationship, like the car, seems like a total loss. And totaled cars are discarded; sold to the highest bidder for parts.

It’s what seems to happen with some relationships. They feel discarded, useful only as parts sold to the highest bidder.

Occasionally there is someone who goes to the auction and sees the car, but instead of seeing the dented metal and smashed glass, they see the possibilities. They understand that the car can be bought and re-built.

It will never be like it was, but it’s still functional, still useful, still able to be driven.

It’s this picture I prefer when I think about relationships. Can I be the person that, instead of seeing total ruin, sees hard work and potential? Sees within all the brokenness, possibilities born from smashed hearts and dented feelings? It will never be the same; it can never be the same — but can something of value and use emerge from those hurt parts?

The Monday morning collision was hard, and I’m still a little shaken. But it’s given me a chance to think about these other, far more difficult collisions – the collisions that call for me to make a choice; discard as total loss or get back with potential to rebuild.

How about you? Have you been in a car collision recently? How about a people collision? If so what was the aftermath and how are you picking up the broken glass? 

*Important note! The picture above is NOT a picture of my accident! Mine was not so serious!

19 thoughts on “Collision

    1. Thanks Sophie – the addition of the last sentence was an afterthought – I suddenly thought “Oh no – everyone is going to think it’s far more serious than it was”


  1. Oh, Marilyn, I agree with Isabella. How insightful and how amazing that you could write after an accident. Monday seemed to have been the day ~ my daughter and I were headed to a cardiology appointment for her three year old. We were hitting every red light and then hit a stretch of bumper to bumper congestion. With two babies in the car and several travel tanks of oxygen, I make sure I leave plenty of room in front of me. Thank goodness. A sudden stop, I had room enough to stop but oh the awful sound of impact as the driver behind me did not. My daughter flew out of the car in an instant to check her babies and then we maneuvered off the road. Two little girls exited their vehicle and with sweet smiles they apologized for their driver. We were the ones driving the SUV, they were in a smaller car that hit our trailer hitch. The mom in the other vehicle just wanted to leave but we had to wait for police even though there didn’t seem to be much damage. While my daughter dealt with rescheduling appointments and trying to get her babies seen by their pediatrician, I was talking with the mom and girls. They were headed to a meeting at a new school where one of the girls would be entering 7th grade the next day. She was so excited and anxious and upset because she had sat in gum. And then the accident and having to wait and miss the meeting…..and her mom didn’t have a driver’s license and was driving her boyfriend’s car. My heart just hurt for all of them and their terribly messed up Monday. Life is scary and too short with our special little ones and how I wish we could have bubble wrap and a big sign on our car. I am so grateful we were all seemingly ok and the car seems fine. I hope the first day of 7th grade went better than yesterday.


    1. Jocelyn – I am so sorry about this and so glad everyone is ok. What was it about Monday eh?! I love your idea of wanting to be wrapped in Bubble wrap – it’s given me an idea for a blog post! Can I quote you?


  2. Hey Marilyn, glad it wasn’t too serious. I haven’t been in a car accident recently, but have definitely been in a people crash. We’re in the picking up the pieces phase, thanks for the encourgement of trying to make it work. Personnel issues are always the toughest in my job.


    1. I can only imagine Ruthie – one of the things about working overseas is the strong personalities it attracts. The strength is so vital for dealing with some of the things that are hard in that life, but also greatly affect personal interactions. May you gain wisdom in your morning hours – I have to say that your words this last year have been a continually good challenge and reminder of my need to turn to God in those early morning hours of the day so thank you for that.


  3. I am so glad you are okay Marilyn, what a scare you must have had! And what an accurate way to compare ‘people collisions’. I think we have all had those, some worse than others. It is kind of sad they happen, but that is life. It is great that people have the courage to recycle that ‘crashed car’ rather than wait for the latest model or the dream car. And more practical too, after all that dream car could end up colliding and get just as damaged.


    1. Thank you so much for your well-wishes! Love this comment and the insight around rebuilding – it brings up the point of relationships growing stronger through collisions as well. That the repair of metal can strengthen. Thanks for the reminder.


  4. SO grateful you and your friend are ok, at least physically. The images you offer called up a myriad of “cultural collisions” in my healthcare work . . . most recently of a conflict between a Boston-based nurse and doctor and the Southeast Asian parents of a baby on a feeding tube. The parents were desperate to take their little boy off the tube, and the clinicians were appalled that the parents seemingly couldn’t understand the need for the tube. This collision could have but didn’t end in a permanently broken relationship but only because others could understand and explain the meaning behind the behavior (the parents believed that parts of their son’s soul might leave his tiny body through the tube) and then respectfully negotiate an agreement for care. This relationship was well worth rebuilding, and that’s what’s happening. It made me think of how much more “rebuildable” or “savable” we all are than the steel vehicles we drive. Although we may never be the same after a painful and damaging collision, perhaps, with grace, we will be greater, softer, more compassionate, better . . .


    1. I loved this comment. Cathy – I’ve been writing about a cultural collision myself and this is such a picture of what happens when there is exchange, negotiation and better understanding. Thanks for this story – I especially love your last sentence. “Although we may never be the same after a painful and damaging collision, perhaps, with grace, we will be greater, softer, more compassionate, better . . ” beautiful! I’m so waiting for that guest post!!


  5. I’m so glad you are okay, Marilyn. And, only you could write such a reflective and spot on blog post right after such a scary accident. I would have taken it as an excuse for at least a week’s stress leave! I’ve only been in fender benders myself, but the horrid sound of metal on metal still echos. I hope that the follow-up insurance procedures go smoothly. Go gently, dear friend!


    1. Isabella – thanks so much for this kind comment!! My brother says I’m becoming a journalist – car accident one day, report the next! No way, I say. And I hear your words to go gently – taking the rest of the week completely off from blogging til after Labor day..


  6. Funny you should ask – my wife and I were in an accident recently on a Florida highway during a serious down pour. We were in a hurry to see our grandchildren at Disneyland and should have pulled over to wait out the storm. We didn’t.

    Our car spun out when I tried to avoid another driver making an unsafe lane change. We did a left and a right and a left… then a 360… then over the right side shoulder down into a ditch… the car rolled left on side then back upright and then settled in some thick bushes… all in maybe 10 seconds.

    It was a “soft collision” i.e. we didn’t hit any solid objects – cars, trees, light poles – by God’s grace. The engine still ran, but lot’s of body damage. We were towed.

    Most amazing was the number of people that stopped to see if we were okay… call the police… wait with us… and pray for us.

    We had the car repaired, but it was never the same – I was always hearing noises and never felt really safe in it – although it did protect us at the time. We could have kept the car but it just wasn’t the same… it was time to move on.

    I don’t know if this is a paradigm for some relationships or not. But I do know, that after a big crash… life is never quite the same. And, btw – we’ve slowed down a lot, allowing extra time to get where we are going and enjoying what we discover along the way.


    1. At times it might be necessary to realize when it is “time to move on.” It does not have to mean one never returns. Healing and forgiveness might only occur when having ample time and distance.


    2. I appreciate this comment so much. First off – so sorry about your accident but the way you describe the comfort and presence of God within that is the real story – so thanks for that. In terms of relationships – it’s so true. I can think of a couple of times when the relationship really was totaled. At this point, and on this side of Heaven, I don’t see that changing – I’ve been learning that even in that there is a redeeming process that takes place in my heart where I don’t blame myself as much, I can seek forgiveness from God and know I’ve been forgiven, and the redeeming process of learning to live in peace. So I guess part of this is just like the guys in the auction process who know when a car is worth salvaging and know when it is beyond repair, I guess there’s that need for wisdom of when to do the same with relationships, not in bitterness but recognition that it sometimes happens.


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