A Personal Story - Wesley Gosselin
I was given one of the very greatest blessings of my life two summers ago--a blessing that drastically changed how I view myself, creation, and our purpose--but I still don't know exactly what happened.
There were no rumble strips. No shoulder. But it was still my fault. Gravel thundered underneath my driver side tires. I swerved back onto the road--it was a pretty bad overcorrection. The tires shrieked with confusion. Then another overcorrection--more shrieking. I was then back down into the gravel heading towards oncoming interstate traffic and all that was between them and I was the grass median--one semi-truck and two normal cars, I think, in the wake of my path. My brain instantaneously imagined being plowed by the semi. "It's okay, it's okay, it's okay" seemingly repeating that to myself who-knows-how-many times in what couldn't have been more than a couple seconds, presumably trying to fool myself into denying the reality of what was happening. I hit a bump--a culvert, I found out later--and launched into the air. What an eery feeling--the weightlessness of it. I didn't really say anything to myself that time, I guess because my brain didn't think it was "okay" anymore. I thought it was all over, that this was my last moment. I guess I blacked out. Maybe for 45 seconds max. The car was smoking and glass was everywhere. Airbags deployed that I didn't know existed. My state was something of horror, shock, but also of gratitude. What happened? I'm alright? And I was. No broken bones. No waking up in the hospital days later. No serious bleeding. No nothing.
But I did begin to feel completely different internally. I felt this vast emptiness, but it wasn't necessarily a bad emptiness. It was like God and I just lingered together and that I couldn't really do anything about it, that my body, mind, and soul were being reset and that I just had to wait it out. It took me a few days or maybe even a week before I really began trying to work things out within me, to work out why I felt the way I did, to work out and process what I was supposed to do about the wreck going forward, and most essentially, to work out exactly who I really was.
A New Beginning
New beginnings and transformations can be very difficult—just as is the case with growing pains. Since I had turned 11 and started playing and practicing golf every day, I was attached to myself as a golfer. I remember when I first began playing golf and my friends at school would call me "Wes the golfer." Even now I still get that sometimes--"Oh you're the golfer right?"
And the emptiness that I felt after the accident, I knew that a big part of it was simply not feeling at home within my self—not really knowing who I was most authentically and deeply. I was entrenched in myself as “Wes the golfer.” I had stopped listening to what God was trying to tell me in each day, and the work that He wanted to do with my life, and just assumed that golf must be what I was supposed to do with my life simply because I was pretty good at it. I was good enough as a junior to get a college scholarship, so why not play collegiately? And I was good enough as a collegian to play professionally, so why not play professionally? Yet I know now that skill and purpose are not one in the same. I refused to think of a "Plan B," thinking that I wouldn't pursue golf as hard if I had something to fall back on, that I wouldn't ever make it if I had a backup plan. And so I spent all this time seeking after this dream I had formed so fully inside me, being Wes "the golfer" all the while forgetting to pay attention to God's work in me, to listen to myself, and to get to know myself, and that was my mistake.
Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism, encourages us similarly while describing a process he calls the “quarterly off-site” on a podcast with Tim Ferriss:
“the whole idea is to create space to be able to discern that voice…your unconscious, your own sense of direction, and to be able to listen to that so that you can discern, again, between all these good things, all these different pulls and so on, and really what it is that you feel you came here to do.”
When it really came down to it, the deepest, best parts of myself were screaming with discontentment about with the life that I had lived--to the life that I had almost lost. I just had to be given the space to see it and hear it. I began to see that the past few years of my life were overwhelmingly clouded by my desire to be seen as "successful" and as "good" from others, and that fell completely short of my true call and purpose. It was like it couldn't have mattered less and that I had missed the whole point along the way, and that I now stood before God with just my soul, completely and terrifyingly naked wondering what I had done with my life.
Alan Jones in his book, Soul Making, describes this phenomenon, what he calls "stopping the world" eloquently and purely:
"Just for a moment, we have no choice but to see all our dogmatic and philosophical baggage thrown overboard as we stand shipwrecked on an unknown island. There we are, naked, stripped of the fig leaves of our prejudices and presuppositions."
This is pretty elaborate, metaphorical language, but it is exactly how I felt. Shipwrecked. Naked. Nothing at all mattered anymore except who I was in the eyes of God. My entire life--my values, attachments, relationships, and pursuits were clarified instantaneously and I saw myself as I really was. And I had failed.
Let me be clear in that it wasn't God condemning me or affirming my failure, but my own deep realization in the moment. The weight of life just bore down on me, and I felt an incredible disappointment with the life that I had lived to date, but I wasn’t hopeless. At the same time, I felt an incredible drive to cultivate a life of deep meaning--a life that I wouldn't regret when it really came time for me to pass on.
This is exactly why I see my wreck as one of the greatest blessings of my life, because it allowed me--it forced me, rather--to see my existence and my shortcomings honestly, and it was massively transformational. It was a rebirth of sorts, like instantaneously my life had become real and for it, I had become responsible. Responsible to live purposefully and gratefully. Responsible to cultivate and share love and what is life-giving. Responsible to bear the weight of my sinfulness. Responsible to befriend the truth. Responsible to live a life of meaning.
But much like growing pains, responsibility is heavy--because if something is worth being responsible for, it means that whatever it is must be important, and that if important, there is the possibility of not living up to its importance, in other words, there is the possibility of failing.
Failure. It’s exactly what I felt those days following the accident.
Yet I’ve learned that it is just part of the game. Life is unendingly difficult. We will struggle and fail. We will fail at life. All of us. But this mustn't be bad news, because to get caught up therein is to miss the point entirely. The point is this: life isn't about me and it isn't about you either. It is about God and it is about Love--those divine mysteries that preceded each and every one of us--each and every being. If we can grasp this, really embody it and know it deeply, then we will choose our failures wisely, and that is my message. Be intentional. Choose your life and your failures, on purpose. Choose to serve a mission beyond yourself. Listen. Grow in love. And maybe, just maybe we will get to the end of our Earthly road and be pleased with our existence.