By Lydia Lin
Paramedics carefully removed the body of a young woman from the wreckage of a two car collision on a stretch of Highway 101 in Olympic National Park. Her face was bruised and swollen—almost indistinguishable; her nose was gone, leaving only a dark hole. At a local hospital, doctors stitched her nose back onto her face and sewed shut her lacerated upper lip, but more serious injuries were internal: 2500 cc’s of blood was lodged in her abdomen; her spleen and pancreas ruptured; her liver was lacerated, and her kidneys suffered contusions. Her head had also suffered a zygoma complex fracture, and the lens in her left eye was ruptured. Later in the evening she was transferred by medical helicopter to a medical center in Seattle.
One after another, her friends came from far and near to visit her in intensive care. The pastor of her church in Los Angeles visited as well, but his first thought was “I t may not be long before we have a memorial service in the church.” Lydia Lin was t hat young woman. Here is her story o f how God transformed her life through this accident .
AWAKENED FROM NIGHTMARES
Lying in ICU, my mind began to put the scattered and incoherent pictures together. There had be en an accident. I remembered being visited by my roommate and my pastor. I recalled having eye surgery and thanking God for leaving me one eye so I could still see and two legs so I could still walk. Strangely, I do not remember suffering intense pain from the fractured spine and other in juries, but I do remember the peace that came from knowing that no t even a sparrow will fall to the ground without God’s consent. Also comforting was the verse assuring me that God does not ask us to pass through challenges beyond what His children can bear.
During my three -week stay in the intensive care unit, I had five major operations. After the spinal operation, I was sent to t he regular ward. The bruises and swelling were improving, and my facial features were becoming more distinguishable. Four days after spinal surgery, I was able to sit up for half an hour while wearing a heavy body jacket and strapped in a wheel chair. The doctors were amazed. I told them, “The God that I believe in is an omnipotent physician. He was the one who, through your hands, gave me the breath of life a second time.”
THE TAIWANESE PRINCESS IN A WHEELCHAIR
On August 21, 1986, I was transferred to the rehabilitation ward. Even during those days of suffering, there were still some uplifting moments. I particularly remember dusk, when my brother and sister, who had come from Taiwan, would push my wheelchair through the long hallway to a glass window. As we gazed out the window, we would talk about our childhood, sometimes teasing each other as a way to find joy in our sadness. This was the sweetest time of the day and my favorite spot in the hospital. How thankful I was to have whole hearted support and care from my family!
My nurse Laura mentioned to me that everybody on the staff knew a “Taiwanese Princess” had come to the ward... at least; I was being treated like one. They had seen different people visiting me every day, giving me flowers and delicious Chinese food, and friends and relatives waiting on me. The doctors and nurses had also heard about my church in Los Angeles sending 20 people, two by two, to take care of me. Within three days of the accident, people from other Chinese churches in Seattle also came to visit me. My room overflowed with flowers and cards that arrived like snowflakes— not only from Texas, where I ha d live d for four years, but also from Taiwan and from friends who h ad been out of touch for a long time. To the hospital staff, I seemed to be a very important person. But little did they know that I was only a very ordinary Christian who had a big, warm, and loving family.
Although I was in great pain in those days, Christian friends helped me to pray without ceasing and to praise Go d continually. W he never I uttered praises to Jesus, the pain that eve n drugs could not alleviate would diminish. The Lord upheld me in His arms as I went with Him through that dark valley.
Just as I was gradually increasing the amount of time I spent in the wheelchair and learning to walk, the doctors brought bad news. One of the hooks on the Harrington rods installed in my spine during the previous surgery had come loose. Another operation would be required to tighten it. At this point, I began to question God: “Why more spinal surgery? Haven’t I suffered enough? Would I become paralyzed this time?” That night I could not sleep. But God is a loving God. The weeping in the night will invariably be followed by cries of joy in the morning. The next day the doctor told me that x-ray films show ed that the two cups of fluid remaining in my chest for a couple of weeks had completely disappeared. I was elated and sensed clearly that God was telling me He was with me; I faced the spinal surgery with an inner peace only God could give me.
THE FACE IN THE MIRROR
Seated in my wheelchair at dusk as I looked out over the Port of Seattle, and the brilliant evening sun shone across Puget Sound, what app eared in my mind was the face that I had seen for the first time in the mirror that morning. There were two deep red wounds. The nasal ridge was gone. The nose that had been hurriedly sewn back on left the nostrils unsymmetrical in position and size. The right eye had the inner corner stretched into a half circle; the left eye was covered with gauze. Was t his ugly face mine? W here was t hat bright, confident face with a pair of smiling eyes?
Since childhood, my world had been composed of nothing but applause: excellent grades in school, pampering love of my parents and teachers, admission to the college of my choice. After graduate study in Texas, I had found a good job and earned a certified public accountant license. When time allowed, I taught English to Vietnamese refugees, made cakes and snacks to take to friends, and chauffeured students. I also sang in the church choir. Mine was always a smiling face.
After moving to Los Angeles in 1983, I got a better job in a bigger company. I bought my own house and a piano in 1985. Life was full and colorful, and this smiling face was clear and pleasant, complete and happy. But now all had changed. The face in the mirror showed fright, shock, and grief. I felt that my beautiful dreams and my heart were all broken, and for the first time since my accident, I was truly depressed. It was the worst time for me to go back home to Los Angeles.
A WELCOME HOME
As I boarded the plane to Los Angeles, I reminded myself that I had left home with a whole body but now was returning wearing a gauze pad over one eye and a turtle- like body jacket. My back was hunched, and my face was colorless and disfigured. How could I possibly meet people in such a condition?
As soon as the door opened into the home from which I had been absent for two and a half months , a welcome home singing came from the darkened room , I panicked and hurried upstairs, put on a loose-fitting dress over my body jacket, and applied a little makeup before coming down again. Once downstairs, I found the house filled with people, young and old: my pastor, choir members, and members of my church. They had brought a large cake, and out of understanding, had left on only a dim light. Amidst t he chatting and laughter, it seemed I had come back to the happy times of the past, just as though nothing had happened, as if t he hospital stay had been nothing but a nightmare.
AN ANEL IN THE DARK
“Oh, no! That can’t be me. That face in the hospital mirror is too terrifying! ” On the morning of June 9, 1987, when I saw my face wrapped in bandages — with the nose swollen out of proportion, the left eye stuck shut with dried fluid, and the blood-stained bruises — such a horrifying sight sent me away crying. The affliction ca use d by reconstructive surgery was head splitting. I experienced heavy loss of blood when a bone graft was removed from my skull to repair the nasal ridge and to fill in my left eye socket. Because my whole face underwent major plastic surgery, I suffered from excruciating headaches which did not respond to painkillers.
Keeping me company throughout those difficult days was Netty Lintang, a graduate theological student from Indonesia, doing her internship in my church in Los Angeles. When she saw my condition, she volunteered to take care of me f or three weeks. Those were days of soiled pillows and blood stained linen. Every morning Netty would prepare a steaming bowl of eggs and oatmeal and bring it up stairs to me. In t he evening she would make the best Indonesian d inner and follow it with bedtime snacks. At bedtime, she would also read to me from the Bible and pray for me, telling me to be thankful for something every day. Netty was like an angel, tending me and helping me commune with Jesus.
CHRISTMAS BELLS RINGING
Sitting by the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve, I quietly counted my blessings: my company had given me two years' sick leave, and my medical insurance had so far paid out over $160,000. Disability insurance had been paying me 60 percent of my lost salary, so I did not have to worry about my livelihood. More importantly, many people a round me care d for me, provided love and comfort, and helped me pull through several major operations. Facing another plastic surgery in the coming week after New Year, I was very worried and full of self- pity, but t hen David Wu, a friend of mine cheered me up. He told me, “God has kept you alive because He has a plan for your life. He will also be in control of what lies ahead.”
THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME
In July of 1988, my two-year sick leave ended, and I returned to work. The company I had worked for not only put me back in the original department, but also gave me a raise in salary and spent $465 on a very comfortable chair for me. My fellow workers accepted me back as an old colleague. But now there began within me a completely new and different struggle.
I suddenly had to do a full day’s work with no time to rest. Initially I was completely exhausted. By the time I reached home in the evening, I was bent over like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. I began to sink into depression again. I would cry and complain to God, “Am I to pass my fair youth alone in an attic? Why can’t I b e like others, doing what I would like to do? W hat I ask for is just a normal life. My life now is a constant struggle just to find enough time and strength to function. What sense is there in living like this?"
I tried to s hare my feelings of frustration and inadequacy with my friends. But the friends who loved me so much and surrounded me with support through nine operations now could not understand why I was so weak, so unable to deal bravely with the problems of everyday life. I realized that only the Lord, who Himself drank the bitter cup of suffering, can understand those who suffer. Only He can bear them up in His arms, a place of shelter and rest. I seemed to be held in Jesus' bosom as He spoke to me, “Don’t be afraid. I will walk with you. In me there is peace.”
THE DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL
During a ten-day Christmas vacation, I had my tenth operation. I returned to the daily grind of work without having rested enough. Only one word can describe the months that followed: EXHAUSTION! Those days were hard on my body, and my soul was not peaceful either. I was fighting a spiritual battle.
Early on in my life, I had acquired a habit: reaffirming my value through external achievement. After I be came a Christian, I knew that God loved me unconditionally. Even after the car accident, I had experienced stronger love and had come to understand God’s care in a greater way. But I still had a tendency to act like my “old self,” who I was before I trusted Christ; this was mostly evident in my thirst for achievement, for through my achievements, I reasoned, I would prove my worth.
My physical frailty was like an invisible prison that restricted my activity and confined me to a limited space. I could do nothing to prove my value. I was cornered and had to find the foundations of life. What I discovered was that I had set some unreachable standards in
my mind. I had an overwhelming urge to strive, compete, and out-perform myself. I thought if I were only more outstanding, then I would be worth loving. But now, what could I do with the little energy I had when it did not even match what an ordinary per son could do? Judging my self by these standards, I had nothing to hold on to, nothing to justify my existence.
Learning to accept myself with my weakness and limitations began by accepting God’s grace. “For it is by God’s grace that you have been saved through faith. I t is not the result of your own effort, but God’s gift, so that no one can boast about it. God h as made us what we are, and in union with Christ Jesus He has created us for a life of good deeds, which He has already prepared for us to do.”
As I began to accept by faith that my value stems from God’s love alone, I no longer needed to prove myself through accomplishments. All is grace freely received, not earned through my efforts. My accident was not something that took God by surprise. He knew what I would be able to do and not to do after my accident. And by faith, I knew God was with me and was my helper. My drifting soul had at last found its solid anchor.
I soon was able to work m ore easily by taking half-hour breaks resting on my back every three hours. I even took on a major planning project for my company. I felt thankful to have enough energy to face this challenge.
A HAPPY NEW LIFE
In July 1990, just before the fourth anniversary of the accident, my father, my maternal grandmother, my brother, and my sister came to Los Angeles to visit me. I stayed in the hotel with them, sitting up all night to share with my 79-year-old granny Jesus’ love and Hi s grace in healing me. Before s he died in 1992, she trusted the Lord as her personal Savior. My father, brother, and sister-in-law also professed faith in the Lord. “Do you really believe in the Lord Jesus?” I asked my father. “O f course I believe in Him. God is so kind,” he replied. Seeing my father’s smiles, my heart was filled with happiness .
Looking back over those four years, I realized that God had His own purposes. He allowed me, through what could have been a fatal accident, to experience the love of many brother s and sisters in the Lord, and even the love of the whole church. Then He allowed me to pass through dark and lonely days so that His love would fill my heart permanently, making me ready to be a friend to others and to share my life with them as long as I live; because of my accident, the members of my family that didn’t believe in Jesus before, witnessed Him strengthening me through His grace. I could never have foreseen such a wonderful plan.
Jesus says: “A grain of wheat remain s no more than a single grain unless it is dropped into the ground and dies. If it does die, then it produces many grains.” Dying is painful, but with sincere faith , relying on the power that the Lord gives me, I willingly pass through the long deep night to see the beauty of the dawn.
Life has been passing by so quickly. It has been 20 years since that fateful day the accident took place. Looking back at those day, I can once again feel the hand of God lifting up my own tired hands. I can start off a gain on my sore feet and keep on singing and going forward.
My ten operations prepared me well for a later prayer ministry to other severely injured hospital patients. I am able to share with these victims that faith in God provides hope and love to overcome suffering. What is important is that we have an unshakeable love in our heart and share that love with others in need.
I cherish the blessings I have now. When I face daily life with the love of God and a thankful he art, I am able joyfully to study, write, exercise, and travel. In my middle age, I think about the true meaning and value of life. Every secular achievement will some day pass away, leaving us empty. What is truly valuable is what we can keep forever. Relying on God makes one's path bright!