Have you ever been so afraid, your stomach dropped to your toes, your mouth dried to dust and the tears flowed non-stop? That’s how I felt the day I got the letter.
Growing up, I was always the good kid. It’s not that I aspired to sainthood, but I had a horror of being accused of some kind of wrongdoing and would turn myself inside out to avoid it. I could be silenced with a look and controlled with a frown. Although this trait modified as I grew older, it never left me. Nothing could turn my world upside down faster than getting in trouble from a higher authority.
I seldom drove into work, but it was necessary on that grey, November day, in order to get there in time to train night staff. I should have left early to compensate, but as often happens, crisis followed incident, and I got away later than expected on a normal day. It had already been dark for an hour, and traffic crawled along the highway when I fell asleep at the wheel. My foot lifted from the brake and I rolled into the car in front of me.
The impact shook my world, literally and figuratively. My glasses flew off when the air bag engaged, and my shaking fingers searched for them in the dark. The man from the car I hit came running back, flailing his arms, yelling what he thought of me into the night. I shook and cried.
The next several hours were a blur of police and tow trucks and driving a rental car home on unfamiliar streets. After a hug and several shaking sobs, my husband and I talked about the implications of my accident. My car was totalled and my insurance would be renewed in another month. What would happen?
I worked my way through this disaster, and managed to buy another car. Because my insurance rate had already been set, it wouldn’t affect this year's policy, but there were no guarantees after that. I struggled with fear each time I sat in the driver’s seat, but I drove.
Then the letter arrived. I was being sued. The person I hit saw this as an opportunity to work the system, and accused me of every driving sin in the book. His lawyer accused me of drinking, fiddling with the radio dials, using my cellphone, popping drugs and wearing glasses with an out of date prescription. Ridiculous in the extreme, except I struggled with ongoing terror, which diluted the humour for me. I never drink, the radio wasn’t on, my phone was in my purse, I’d taken no medication and the prescription on my glasses was current. I told the officer I fell asleep at the wheel. That meant my eyes were closed, which seemed to me to be more of an issue than my glasses' prescription.
The person suing me said he had been so damaged by the accident that he could no longer work, and he was suing for more money than I could make in a lifetime. Months passed, and when my insurance came up for renewal, I could no longer afford it. I gave my car away. I wondered if I’d ever be able to afford to drive again.
Feeling vulnerable and under attack, I begged God for mercy and help. More letters and more accusations followed. I dreaded reaching into the mailbox.
The insurance company appointed me a lawyer, and with shaking knees, I went to meet him for the first time. Although businesslike and serious, he seemed kind enough. He asked hundreds of questions and required documentation of various kinds. The other lawyer wanted proof from my optometrist that I'd seen her in the last two years.
While all this happened, another drama unfolded in my life. My husband of thirty years had heart disease, and over that year his condition deteriorated until he died. Suddenly being sued wasn’t the worst thing in my life.
But the lawsuit hadn’t gone away, either. The lawyer wrote to me, asking for the letter from the optometrist for the second time. I wrote back with an apology, saying that I would get it in the next few weeks, but my husband had died and I’d been distracted.
I received from him a lovely reply. Something seemed to change at that point. He went from being an appointed attorney to being my champion. He had the other party followed and discovered the man could carry several cases of beer from the liquor store, so was not as injured as he led us to believe. My attorney also coached me when I met with the prosecuting lawyer. He was kind and supportive.
Months passed, and the day came when I received another letter. My attorney explained all charges had been dropped. I was clear.
I wrote him, thanking him for his kindness to me. He replied that in all the years he’d been doing this, no one had ever thanked him before. Wow.
Life can be incredibly scary. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt as alone as I did on the side of the road, in the dark, with that man yelling at me. But even then, God was with me. Through the dark journey of the next year, He held me, carried me, and He sent a wonderful man to be my champion in the frightening world of false accusations and lawsuits. I’ve had to go through some incredibly difficult things since then, but the same God is by my side.
“The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in His love He will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” Zeph. 3:17
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