My life changed radically one night about three a.m. I was twenty-three years old and working on an oil drilling rig in Colorado. Earlier that day maintenance had been done on this powerful machine, capable of lifting a hundred tons of drilling pipe out of the ground.
Two sizable pieces of hardware, which carried that load, needed to be joined back together. They were connected with a large diameter steel pin. Because of their weight, these pieces were difficult to align, and the pin did not go in easily. It had to be sledge-hammered into place. No one realized it had been struck so many times it had fractured internally.
I had been a born-again Christian a little over a year. Before I went to work that night, a Christian in my family warned me to be careful. In a dream they had seen a “dark force” coming for me and were praying for my safety. Thank God for the shield of faith.
That night about three I was kneeling on the drilling floor near the turntable that rotated the drilling pipe, replacing a backup cable. For no apparent reason, the thought came into my mind to move from where I was. At first I resisted this seemingly random thought, then finally shifted to my right a few feet. I looked around and felt I was in the right spot. The thought must have been from the Lord, for I believe it saved my life.
We were drilling through a clay-like strata called Bentonite, that swelled and turned to sticky mud when it got wet from the drilling fluid. It was binding the rotating pipes deep in the ground. To free things up, the driller would raise the pipe string, let it free fall a second or two, and lean hard on the brake. Each sudden stop created strong vibrations that shook off the mud.
Shortly after I moved, as he was lifting the pipes again, the steel pin broke. The tremendous force of gravity pulling on the pipe string caused it to accelerate downward like a rocket. Heavy hardware instantly flew toward me, and I was knocked unconscious before I knew what hit me.
One piece sailed directly over my head as I was kneeling. It clipped the back of my hard hat, sending shock waves into my brain, and grazed my shoulder. It left a six inch deep crater in quarter-inch steel deck plate as it bounced sixty feet away into the dark night. If it had landed an inch or two closer, I wouldn’t be here. Fortunately, no one else was on the drilling floor when this happened.
When I came to, a co-worker was standing over me, asking if I was all right. I wiggled my toes and moved my fingers, so I guessed I was okay. But the bare bulbs of the rig lights appeared dimmer than usual.
Someone saw blood on my back as they helped me up. I just wanted to sit down, but they insisted I go to the hospital. I crawled into the backseat of a VW bug, and we headed for town on the makeshift road crossing the furrows of an old corn field where we were drilling. The stiff bouncing motion was too much for my brain. I lay down on the seat and passed out again. Much to the driver’s relief, I came to in a few minutes. He wanted to contact my family, so he asked where I lived. I drew a blank. For a guy who prided himself on having a nearly photographic memory, this was a new and unwelcome feeling.
I secretly prayed to God to help me. My memory was circling overhead but not quite coming in for a landing. I kept on praying. After a few minutes I had touchdown and told him where I lived.
At the hospital a male nurse aggressively scrubbed the shallow wound on my shoulder with a rough scratching pad that resembled a pot scrubber. I stopped him a couple of times to let him know I could feel that. When the X-ray came back, it showed a shoulder blade fracture. I was going to live, there was nothing critical, so they sent me home.
While my body healed quickly, my brain ran noticeably slower. I was sensitive to noises like never before. A doctor explained I had suffered a severe concussion from the glancing blow to the back of my hard hat, and there was really nothing he could do. My brain would have to heal itself.
God had clearly intervened to spare my life by changing my position on the drilling floor, and at this point He stepped in once again to turn the situation around for good. Through someone I trusted, the Lord instructed me to begin copying out Scriptures four hours a day in my own handwriting. Though my writing arm was in a sling and I am not particularly ambidextrous, I began writing left-handed. That was challenging enough.
I took a Strong’s Concordance of the Bible and chose the word “love.” Then I copied out all the New Testament verses that contained any form of the word “love.” (If anyone wants to mature in Christ, study the word “love.” When Jesus talks about loving our enemies, we quickly realize love is far more than warm and fuzzy feelings—it’s a hard-headed decision.)
I began enthusiastically enough, but copying Scripture proved more difficult than I anticipated. Writing forty-five minutes or an hour is conceivable, but four hours?! I underwent a variety of emotions while attempting to obey, from the peace that passes understanding to unexpected frustration. At times anger arose out of nowhere and for no clear reason. I had to command it to leave in order to fulfill the time. My spirit had to force my flesh into subjection.
I kept my writing in three-ring notebooks. In looking back through them, I could see pages where my handwriting got worse and worse, even trailing off. That’s when I fell asleep at the table. On other pages were notes on the insights I was receiving. What I thought should have been relatively easy turned into a spiritual “boot camp” experience.
The condition of my brain improved the more I transcribed the Bible’s verses. Once I got the hang of it, I began to learn the Word of God and went on to study the Greek words from which our English words were translated.
Copying Scripture became my pathway to healing and inner peace. This practice was so soothing and beneficial that I continued doing it long after my symptoms disappeared. Paul said we are transformed spiritually as we renew our minds by studying the Bible. The more I wrote, the more I found that to be true. I copied out other words, such as “repentance” and “forgiveness,” as I was led. I studied “light,” “life,” and “truth,” and dozens of others. This began a lifelong love for God’s Word. I didn’t know it then but God was preparing me for a calling as a “sheep-feeder.”
A significant portion of the next twenty years was spent copying Scriptures by hand. Without trying, I memorized many portions of Scripture. God spoke wisdom and understanding to my heart as I meditated in the Bible day and night. He does the same for all who build their schedules around His Word. Later, ministry developed through my knowledge of the Scriptures.
I could easily have died in the accident or been permanently injured. Thanks to God’s protection and grace, my life was still ahead of me. I know that God did not cause the accident, but He sure did not hesitate to use it to focus me on Him and His Word. What could have been a bad thing became a life-transforming experience through His protection, guidance, and prayer. He made all things work together for good. Someone once told me, “There’s a story behind every book.” Now you know mine.