I was 16 years old.
A tractor-trailer truck was exiting the highway in Northwest Houston, as I was driving along the road in the far right-hand lane.
I saw the truck begin to exit, but I did not realize the truck was going to immediately come all the way over to the right lane where my vehicle was currently located.
I may have seen him, but the driver of the truck did not see me.
The driver crossed over the solid white line and knocked me and my vehicle off the road, over the curb, and into a grassy field.
I was driving around 40 miles per hour at the time and had no idea that I would be driving across the grass. Seconds later, my vehicle ran squarely into the traffic sign that read “Stop Ahead.”
I ran into the sign so hard, the base of the pole that held the sign was uprooted and became lodged between my vehicle and the ground.
I was stuck.
I could not move forward and I could not go backward.
I kept pressing the gas pedal, trying to make the vehicle go in any direction.
Normally, it would seem that the obvious thing to do would be to simply put the gear in park, turn off the engine, and exit the car. Yet, in this particular situation, things had become even more complicated.
When the tractor-trailer truck knocked me over to the grassy field, the metal from the bottom of my car scraped against the concrete curb and caused a spark. The spark became a flame and the flame had set the entire field on fire.
Now, the fire was heading toward my car. As much as I tried to move the car, my 1985 Chevrolet Astro Minivan was not going to move.
A Houston Police Officer, understanding the urgency of the moment, yelled at me to grab anything of value and leave the vehicle. A couple of minutes later, the Houston Police Officer and I stood next to one another and watched a good portion of the field burn. While I stood in utter disbelief about what was taking place right in front of my eyes, I was relieved to see that the fire went around my car and that there was no further damage. Still, there were police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances lined up and down the road.
This was far more than a simple car accident or some fender bender. This had turned into quite a spectacle and someone was going to have to take responsibility.
A moment later, the police officer handed me a ticket for failing to yield the right of way to the tractor-trailer truck. Almost immediately, I began to plead my case. I told the police officer that it was not my fault. I told him that the driver of the tractor-trailer truck crossed over the solid white line. He did not seem to believe me.
So, we walked back to the highway. Fortunately, tire marks were visible that showed that the driver had indeed crossed the solid white line. At the same time, someone who witnessed the entire accident emerged and told the police officer what they had seen. They were also able to get the license plate number of the tractor-trailer truck as it drove away.
Finally, I had been cleared from getting a traffic ticket. More importantly, I was not to blame for all of the damage that had ensued as a result of being hit by the truck.
Over the years, I have learned that nobody wants to take the blame. Nobody wants to be at fault. I am not certain who was responsible for teaching me, but I learned to pass the blame on to someone else at an early age. It was not always a calculated and well-thought-out strategy, but almost instinctively, I learned to pass the blame.
As a kid, I learned to blame my brother. I have learned to blame my friends. I have learned to blame my wife. If it was a bigger ordeal, I could even blame the Devil. When it comes to blaming others, almost no one is off-limits. Not even God.
Really, the idea of blaming others is nothing new. Right at the beginning of the Bible, we see how quickly Adam blamed Eve when God asked Adam why he has taken the fruit from the forbidden tree. Genesis 3:12 “The man replied, ‘It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.”
Blaming someone else or something else is easy to do. There are not always many qualifications needed in order to be blamed for something. It usually just has to be anything other than ourselves.
I know that this has been true in my own life. When I blame someone for something, it does not have to be fair or accurate. It does not have to be rational. It does not even have to be true.
I wish I could say that I falsely blamed someone on one occasion when I was a kid. I wish that I could say that the idea of blaming someone else was a phase that I went through at one point in my life. The truth is, I can be very selfish. I want what I want when I want it. If someone or something gets in my way or prohibits me from getting what I want, they are to blame.
Undoubtedly, other people have hurt us. There is no question that there are other people and circumstances that have impacted our lives in a negative way. But, in spite of everyone else, we still have to face the reality that we are responsible for our actions, thoughts, and words.
We have to recognize that we are prone to pride. We have to admit that most of us do not want to accept the blame for our inconsistent, hypocritical, and self-centered ways.
Recognizing that sin lives in us is one of the first steps we can take to finding true freedom.
In my own life, I have come to a very ironic conclusion:
The freedom that I desperately pursued,
the freedom I desperately want,
the freedom I desperately need,
is found in my realization that I have to become free from myself.
Often, I am my own prisoner.
Many times, I hold myself in bondage.
There have been plenty of times when I could not get past me, for me.
We can always blame somebody else.
We can always blame everything else.
But, we will never experience freedom in anyone else,
We will never experience freedom in anything else,
except for Jesus.
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