WorshipWeb: Braver/Wiser: A Weekly Message of Courage and Compassion

The Gift I've Already Been Given

By Nathan Ryan

I slept in a bed
in a room with paintings
on the walls, and
planned another day
just like this day.
But one day, I know,
it will be otherwise.
—from Jane Kenyon's poem, "Otherwise"

It was about 3 in the afternoon on a highway in the middle of Texas. There was a sign facing the opposing traffic: “God loves you. Praise him.” I was in the left lane, driving with my wife and baby. The median was scattered with wildflowers.

All of a sudden my rear passenger tire blew out. The car started to skid. It veered into the right lane, and then the left. We spun completely around into the median. The mud and wildflowers slowed the car until it came to a stop, short of oncoming traffic.

All of us were fine. In fact, my son was mostly annoyed that he was woken up from his nap. The car, other than a busted rim, was fine. Three people and someone from the Texas Department of Transportation stopped to help me dig my car out from the mud (we needed a shovel, an old cardboard box, and a block of wood to fix the tire).

Once I was able to relax a little, and while we cautiously drove the rest of the way to Austin, over and over my panicked brain kept saying It might have been otherwise. It might have been otherwise.

Almost every person I've shared the story with told me that it was God intervening, or that God was looking out for me. The fact that the accident happened right next to a sign literally saying that God loves me certainly adds to that theory.

But my problem with an interventionist God is that there's a point at which my mortality and my family’s mortality will not be intervened with. Defining God this way means God will fail us all when we die. That’s not fair to us and it’s not fair to God.

Instead of looking for God in the hands that saved me, I’m trying to find God in the people who responded. I’m trying to find God in the gift I’ve already been given: being alive in this beautiful and imperfect world. Maybe God exists in that paradoxical intersection of being grateful that today was not otherwise, and knowing that one day it will be otherwise. Maybe being loved by God has nothing to do with life’s outcome and everything to do with appreciation.

God that I may or may not know, help me to be thankful for the imperfect and amazing gift of being alive.

About the Author

Nathan Ryan

Rev. Nathan Ryan was called in November 2020 as the Senior Minister of the Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge. A Louisiana native, Nathan makes a mean red beans & rice, and believes that good food goes a long way toward world peace.


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Winding skid marks of a vehicle on a street.

Our Faith's Complacency in Racism

By Nathan Ryan

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We have an absurd amount to learn, or unlearn, about race in this country. America allowed slavery to exist by seeking out personal and regional salvation at the expense of universal salvation. Our country felt better about itself because with the South as the identified patient, it never had to...

Our Faith's Complacency in Racism