In best selling author Wm. Paul Young’s 2007 book The Shack, God invites the main character, Mack, back to the place which he describes as “the vortex of his pain,” the spot where his kidnapped daughter Missy’s body is found. Mack eventually accepts the unconventional invitation which results in tremendous healing as each member of The Trinity work with him to gently reveal the unquenchable love The Father, despite Mack’s circumstances, has for Mack.
I first read The Shack in June of 2009 and heard Young speak in Shreveport in an event sponsored by local golf legend Hal Sutton. Sutton, who was deeply impacted by The Shack, wanted others to hear author in person. I was asked by my friends Jenny and Brian to attend. John, Maggie Lee and Jack were in North Carolina for Camp (Crestridge and Ridgecrest) while I stayed behind working.
Little could I have known the groundwork God was laying in my spiritual thought patterns as I devoured the story of a grieving parent learning to accept the loss of his daughter which he described as ‘The Great Sadness.’ How Young reconciled personal tragedy with God’s love was a beautiful, poetic picture which remained my mental screensaver as we sat with our daughter whose prayed-for miraculous recovery was simply not to be.
The FBC Shreveport bus left for youth camp in Georgia on July 12th a little after five a.m. A tire failed not long after 10 am just past Meridian, MS. The vehicle flipped and came to rest on Lauren and Maggie Lee. Brandon Ugarte was killed at the scene. An Alabama National Guard unit returning from training on up-righting overturned vehicles was traveling behind the bus, saw everything, and miraculously the Guardsmen lifted the wreckage off of our daughters.
To say that the town of Meridian, Mississippi was where our lives changed forever would be accurate. In the ensuing years since 2009 I have never had anything but sadness upon my hearing of the city’s name. Apparently it was time for all of that to change. My college roommate Betsy Sone Jones lives in Tifton, GA and always leads the Maggie Lee for Good charge this time of year. I love Tifton and wanted to be a part of their altruistic day of kindness which traditionally occurs on October 29th, Maggie Lee’s birthday.
Since Annie Bell Clark Elementary’s MLFG Day was not until mid-November I decided to go. Heading Eastward on 20 to get to Georgia would mean a trip through Meridian, MS. I had never in seven years driven past the accident site and it was time to face the music. I prayed and had others pray for me. I strangely felt like all would be well. As I approached Meridian I felt something tremendous in my spirit: the words, “God was with me the entire time.” It was an urging from Maggie Lee’s perspective.
The sentiment echoed again and again as I located the exact spot of the accident, slowed down, pulled over far into the grass and exited on the passenger side of my car. Down the embankment I walked and heard again, “God was with me the entire time.” Which I completely believe to be true. Meridian, as it turns out, is not scary after all. Perhaps I stopped to tell her so. Like so many unpredictable days in this unplanned journey, God’s ridiculous grace splashes upon me and simply makes my days doable when there is no reason at all why they should be.