Whoever rode the bike path near my home that day had a fine and sunny cool morning. I’ve ridden that same section of that bike path dozens of times over the years . . . alone, with my sons, with my daughters, with my wife. But on that day, I was driving my car to get new tires. Two police cars blocked my way on the wide street that intersects the bike path, so I couldn’t get to the main street. I was annoyed. I turned around and took another road, eventually making my way to the same location but on the main road. I approached the bike path intersection and saw why the police had blocked my way. A bicycle, with a crumpled front tire, laid on its side in the middle of the car lane closest to the bike path. Officers were measuring the distance between a pool of blood on the street and the bicycle. As I slowly passed the scene, I noted that the bicycle didn’t look like a child’s bike. A man’s bike, I said. The blood pool was big, maybe three feet wide. Several police were examining the scene. I drove on . . . with a sickening sense of sudden and surprising death.
Psalm 93 warns that the Lord returns man to dust. Verses five through seven warn that He sweeps away the years as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning; in the morning it flourishes and is renewed, in the evening it fades and withers. For we are brought to an end by your anger; by your wrath we are dismayed.
I was dismayed. My wife and I passed the scene several times that day as we ran typical Saturday errands. The side street was blocked for hours. I watched the Saturday news and looked through the Sunday newspaper, but couldn’t find anything about a bicycle accident. What had happened there? Why did it happen? The police picked up their measuring tapes and washed away the blood so that, by late afternoon, there was nothing to show that something happened there. Then the daily duties of life again occupied my mind and the wonder of what happened faded. But, whenever I passed that intersection, I wondered what happened there. I wondered about the people and their stories and their losses.
A few days ago, while reading Psalm 90, I penciled a few comments in the column: Lives blighted by sin, inescapably answerable to the sin-hating God. What prompted the thought? It was verse 10: The years of our life are seventy or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away. I had scribbled a few short words in the column next to verses 12 to 15: Wow. Life is hard. The psalmist’s longing for the Lord’s return and his plea for mercy in verse 13 are followed by the comfort of verse 14: Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Yet verse 15 kicked me back again: Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil.
I know we deserve nothing from the Lord and I know He owes us nothing. My mere life is a gift of His grace and any day without devastating trouble is a gift of His mercy. I regret the many days spent out of touch with the sentiments of Psalm 90’s admonition to be satisfied in Him, when I’ve failed to live as a child of the Great King and have been bound up in petty cares and perceived offenses. The close of Psalm 90—verses 16 and 17—display the writer’s right life focus. Let your work be known to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us.
It was October 26 and I was running an errand in my car. I drove to the intersection on that side street and the bike path. Someone placed a memorial at the corner. I parked my car—with its new tires—and examined the tall mylar Superman balloon, the round mylar Happy Birthday balloon, the many candles, the white cross. He was Christopher Miller, born on an October 26 that was 19 years ago.
The crash was September 30. He was in a coma for 20 days after the crash. Must have been a head injury. Matthew, my son, was eight months old when Christopher was born. My mind ran: Oh, how terrible. Such a loss. Today’s his 20th birthday. I wonder about his dad, his mom. So incredibly sad.
I pictured Christopher out for a bike ride on that gorgeous, crisp Saturday morning, with all of the vigor and invincibility of his 19 years. He turned the corner on the bike path, crossed the intersection, and was gone.
I will soon be gone. You will soon be gone . . . and will fly away. So teach me to number my days, oh Lord, and give me a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:10, 12). Let your work be shown in me, and your glorious power to my children (Psalm 90:16).