April 29, 1989 was like most Saturdays of that early spring. As usual, I could be found somewhere on the back roads of Milton, Ontario on my shiny red custom-made racing bike.
At twenty-three years old I had left behind my day-dream of being a professional road racer. I say "day-dream" intentionally, as I had many day-dreams but no single Dream. So, while I was disappointed I was not going to be the next Steve Bauer--remember, these were the heady pre-Lance Armstrong days of cycling--it was not the end of my world. There were other day-dreams to pursue.
All that being said, I loved to ride. I had a late start that Spring and was still working at building up my training miles. That day I was on the homeward stretch of a 50 km circuit, probably about 2 kms from my car, parked on the shoulder of a rural road. (I didn't like riding in traffic, so I would drive the ten minutes from our house out to the country and start from there. Mark this fact as ironic and file it way in your memory for now.)
It was a typical Saturday morning in that I saw more horses and cows than cars, and there were a lot of cyclist on the road. (This was prior to the development boom, and between Mississauga and Milton there were miles and miles of farmland and country roads. It was beautiful.) Riding east on Lower Base Line I came up behind a group of four riders. I greeted them with a "hey" and a wave as I passed them. Little did I know I'd be seeing them again very soon.
The sounds of the other cyclists talking soon dissipated, and once again I was left alone with the wind whistling through my helmet. I fell back into my rhythm and looked forward to getting back to my car.
Then a strange thing happened.
I heard nothing, and saw nothing, but I knew something had suddenly changed. One minute I was riding along at a steady 35 km/hour. The next thing I knew I was flying through the air at an unknown but significantly greater speed than 35 km/hour, doing my best Superman impersonation. It was one of those slow motion moments, and I distinctly remember thinking to myself, "This is odd."
And then I was lying on my back in the ditch, perpendicular to the road, staring up at the sky and marveling at the fluffy clouds floating by. No noise, no pain... just an odd peace. Surreal and serene.
All of this occurred in a split second, but I distinctly remember trying to process what had just happened. I turned my head to the right. There, in the ditch up the road at what seemed to be a strange distance away (about 40 feet, as I learned later), lay my shiny red bike. "Mike," I said to myself, "That can't be good. I think you've been hit by a car."
I momentarily centered my thoughts once again on the fluffy clouds overhead, then slowly turned my head to the left. About 100 yards down the road in that direction I saw a car (a 1979 Buick Skylark, as I learned later) skidding to a stop. "Yup," I thought, "You've been hit by a car. Definitely not good."
So in the slow-motion time line of that split second I had confirmed my situation, and although my anxiety level was staring to rise, I was still feeling no pain. However, the relative calm of the moment was slowly being infiltrated by this strange sense that all was not well with my left leg. It didn't hurt, but I just knew. Medically speaking I'd say my leg was just getting around to checking in with my brain with an overdue update.
This is about the time where I started to understand how wrong my day had gone. I raised myself up on my elbows and looked at the leg in question. So far, so good. And then I made a huge tactical error, inevitable as it may have been. Unknown to me my leg was basically shattered between my knee and ankle, and when I started to lift it off the ground the various pieces decided to stop cooperating and go their separate ways. (The queasy may wish to go for a coffee at this point...) As I lay there I watched in disbelief as my foot went from a relatively normal position (pointing up) to a decidedly abnormal position (pointing down).
That's the point where the pain free status of my circumstances changed for good. Pain is an odd thing. I could certainly feel it, and I could even see it (although I immediately stopped looking) but I could also hear it, and even taste it. I was bathed in it. The fluffy clouds continued to float by, but they no longer held my attention.
Initially I was speaking to no one in particular, or to anyone who could hear me, or to both at the same time. I really didn't care. I just knew I needed help. And then I remembered.
"God, help me."
And everything changed.
The pain didn't stop. If anything, it got worse. But I immediately became acutely aware of two things: First, there was someone lying in the ditch next to me on my left. And second, I knew that person was Jesus. No, I couldn't see him, but he was real. So real I even looked over at him, as if to acknowledge his presence some how.
After that, things returned to "real time" and started to happen very quickly. I soon found myself looking up into the faces of the four cyclists I had waved to a few moments earlier. Then it was the faces of two paramedics, and the elderly driver of the car, and the police officer.
There's lots more to this story; a road-side setting of my leg that I will never forget, surgeries, months of physical therapy, and even the untimely death of that elderly man. The point of this story however is to benchmark for you and for me when my relationship with Jesus changed forever.
Don't get me wrong - Jesus had always been important to me. But up until about noon on that Saturday back in 1989 he had been an ideology, the poster child for the belief system that I had incorporated into my life. At that moment Jesus stopped being a concept, and became a real person. I know this because he got down in the ditch with me and told me I'd be OK.
As I look back on it now it makes sense. This was truly the start of my exploration. After all, if Jesus was real, then maybe he meant the things he said. No longer vague principles, these were real words out of the mouth of the same guy who got muddy and bloody with me in the ditch that day.
And nothing would ever be the same. Thank God.