By Ryan Smith: My hands are still shaking.

Three hours after departing by train for a business trip, a thunderous roar interrupted my journey. It felt like a roller coaster releasing the safety harness in the middle of a 100 foot drop.  The car in front of us derailed.   Luggage rained down like 30lb rocks on our heads, and many who were standing instantly found themselves knocked off their feet. All because someone left a shopping cart on a train track.

The experience lasted 2.5 long seconds, and I thought I was going to die.  Looking back on it, I am startled by all the thoughts that zipped by in that short time:

  1. This is it.
  2. God really? A train?
  3. Will my son understand why daddy died on a train?
  4. I should have checked the life-insurance box.
  5. I haven't lived enough life yet.
  6. I have wasted so much time being stressed. I wish I would have spent more time helping or loving and making a difference.
  7. I am not ready.

I didn't die, but my life in the moments afterward was given a celestial refocus. As pieces of shredded steal were picked off the track, and as I sat in an ambulance being told my blood-pressure was a little high, my priorities came into very clear focus. My travel for a "big" contract no longer mattered.  The stress of how I was going to "make it" another week seemed so silly. That work-related email that made my stomach churn before was forgotten.

In those moments when I thought my life might end, I didn't have one single regret about a to-do item or TPS report or paper in the copier.  I thought about my life -- its meaning, its significance, and the joy I'd miss if it was cut short.

It wasn't until later, after I thought about the second chance I'd just been given, that I realized experiences like these are meant to shine light onto what kind of journey we are on -- what we cherish and what we'll miss.  Second chances make it possible to let go of the trivial and fully appreciate our journey. Grace gives each day a new beginning, so we can have the courage to embrace life fully alive.  Grace lets the journey continue to make sense ... even if we find our lives derailing from time to time.

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