He is Always There!

I’ve been a baptized member of the congregation we now call Chapel Oaks for about 65 years, that’s a long time and I’ve seen a lot of change, both in the church and in my life.  Most of the change has been for the betterment of both the church and me.  This has caused me to reflect on three incidences where I have seen God’s hand, or His overworked guardian angel, make direct intervention in preserving my life. In each of the incidents I faced certain significant injury or death. In each, through the recognizable intervention of God, I walked away with no significant injury. Each of these events took place over 50 years ago within about a 5-year interval. 

The first event occurred one snowy winter evening here in the KC area. I had been out, probably on a date, and was returning home. About two blocks from my parents apartment, I wondered what would happen if I were to jam the accelerator to the floor on the snow packed road.  With cars parked on both side of the street I immediately began to slide broadside down the road, it was at that moment I noticed another vehicle coming the opposite direction directly in line with my driver’s door. Talk about looking death in the face!

Then through no action of mine my car abruptly snapped back to its original driving position and the other vehicle and I passed each other without incident. I have always looked back on that incident as real-life proof that God protects.  I still wonder why I did such a stupid thing and am so grateful for God’s direct intervention in preserving my life. That single incident was sufficient to convince me that God truly existed and loved me.

However, He wasn’t through with me yet.  It seems some lessons are harder to learn than others.  A couple years later I was on a Geology Field Trip in SE Missouri, and we were at Johnson Shut-ins, a beautiful and interesting geologic feature.  We had separated into several groups of 6 or 8 students each and were exploring. I, of course, was in the group who was ahead of the other groups, and we came to the second high bluff and wanted to descend to the creek level some 40 feet below. The rest of my group headed around a winding path, around and down to the creek which ended almost directly below where we stood.  I being somewhat of a show-off, said why go all that way when you can simply climb down this sheer rock face to the spot below. 

One of my friends, who was a much more experienced rock climber than I was, simply stated “When you fall, do me a favor and don’t scream. I proceeded to climb over the edge, and everything was going well for about the first 10 feet of my descent.  Then with three points of contact to the cliff face I realized that I had no points of contact and was falling backwards towards the ground some 30 feet below. The ground below was a maze of trees, rocks and one small sandy spot. 

Some of the rocks were the size of small cars, while the sandy spot was approximately three feet across, the result of sand deposition during some past high-water event. Those who observed my descent remarked that I seemed to fall really slowly.  In the mist of my fall, I apparently did a single back flip and landed on both feet directly in the middle of that sandy spot at the base of the cliff. 

When my companions arrived, they were anticipating finding a very gory scene and were amazed that they found me standing there examining my extremities for damage. I found nothing of note….at that time. 

A week or so later I was informed that the x-ray showed a minor fracture in the ankle…take it easy and try to stay off it. That fall earned me the title of Master of the Ropeless Rappel, which stuck for many years. I realized as I stood at the base of the cliff checking myself over for what I deserved from my actions that I had fallen at the approximate time that the Church service would normally be starting, but rather than being in the safety of the Church in Rolla, I was standing at the base of a cliff from which I had just taken a 30 foot fall and through the extraordinary grace of God was relatively unhurt rather than in the condition my companions expected to find me. 

God was still not through with me, while attending a geology field camp in the Black Hills of South Dakota, my team and I were to do a geologic map of a certain area.  The four of us decided to split up and one pair would drive around the perimeter of the area while the other team would hike along the creek and map the center of the area. I was on the cross-country walking team. 

We did not walk down by the creek but mostly along the ridgeline adjacent to the creek with occasional down-hill treks to cross-section the geology.  We stopped about halfway through for a lunch break, and elected to have our lunch on the highest point in the general area so that we could check the maps and our notes etc. and the fact that it afforded an outstanding view.  With lunch over we started to make our way down the promontory back to more level ground. 

Being impatient and overconfident in my own abilities, while my partner took the safe and sane route down, I chose to climb down the back side of the point and traverse around to meet him.  I had just started my trek down when the face of the cliff beneath my right hand gave way and I found myself holding a rock about the size of my head and falling backwards.  Beneath me was about a 150 foot drop, a bounce or two and then another 100-foot drop, no chance of survival. 

Dropping the chunk of cliff-face in my hand I desperately flung the rock away and grasped for the cliff-face with my right hand as my body had pivoted to the right and there was no way for my left hand to possibly reach anything but air.  Much like palming a basketball I grasp the cliff-face with only my fingertips making contact.  I swung free of the cliff-face with only the fingertips of my right hand keeping me from falling.  I remember looking over my shoulder as I momentarily dangled there, knowing the next thing I would see was the earth rushing towards me at 32 feet per second per second acceleration.

I was not aware of any effort on my part but suddenly I swung back to the left and was on the cliff-face once more and able to climb down the few feet necessary to be able to traverse around to solid ground.

It took me a few years to fully realize that I was not the extraordinary human who had prevented the loss of my own life through outstanding abilities and skill, but rather I was the rather thoughtless and inept human who was loved by a God who took extraordinary measures to show that love and preserve my life. 

He had more planned for me and wasn’t done with me yet.  Now more than 50 years after those events I look back on them with gratitude and love for the God who gave me, thus far, 50 years of a productive life and some opportunity to show my love for the God who has always stood by me, even when I haven’t always stood by Him as I should.  I am anxious to meet my overworked guardian angel and find out how many times I am totally unaware that he intervened for my benefit. - Steve Kinser

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