“I Can’t”

I Can’t. I can’t do that, I can’t do this. I can’t stop drinking. Can you stop laughing? Do you WANT to?

If there’s two words in the English language when, put together, have more of a negative impact on our lives, these two would be it. But think about the end of that first sentence I just wrote. Ever hear somebody say, “I can’t stop laughing!” when they’ve heard something really funny? Do they WANT to, is the question. Same goes the other way around. Don’t say I can’t; say I WANT to get A’s. I WANT to stop spending so much money. I WANT a happy marriage and I WANT a happy life.

When I was a junior in high school, I spent the summer back in Kansas helping my Dad with the farming. One hot evening after work I was in the pool hall in downtown Tribune when suddenly through the front door walked in two familiar faces. Two of my friends on the Torrey Pines H.S. football team in Southern California were traveling across country that summer and decided to look me up. Next thing I know we jump into my Dad’s Ford Bronco and head out “to the country” to a party I’d just been invited to. Where I grew up, the “country” was basically flatlands with gravel roads, no light poles to guide you, just the lights of distant farmsteads. It was no different on this night and it was very dark. Laughing and having a grand old time, I missed the curve on a gravel road just a few miles from our destination. I swerved, the right front side of the Bronco skidded into a freshly-plowed field, and BAM, it rolled, ejecting my two buddies and leaving me sitting there with a death grip on the steering wheel when the pickup miraculously landed right side up. I’d done a full flip. What I didn’t know but was about to found out is what we are CAPABLE of doing as human beings when faced with what our minds tell us is a choice of life or death.

I yelled out for my friends and one called out. He’d gone flying about 20 feet or so head first and just before he landed his instincts told him to “roll”, sort of what we did on the football field. He told me later he thought that move saved him. For the most part, he was okay. Our other friend wasn’t so lucky. We found him partially underneath the right front tire. What happened next I still can’t believe to this day and, had it not for my other friend who recounted the story to me later of what he witnessed, I’d have never thought it humanly possible. When I saw our friend with his legs straddling either side of the tire, instincts took over, just like they did for my “rolling” friend. I turned with my back to the pickup, crouched, put both hands under the chassis frame near the front of the tire, and LIFTED the entire front end off the ground, giving at least 4-6 inches clearance between the bottom of the tire and the ground. He was conscious and my other friend pulled him out. Everything was a blur after that. We all lived, though my friend who had been pinned under the pickup never played football again. He’d nearly lost the use of one arm since it had gotten so badly mangled in the accident.

Over 30 years later, I found myself in a similar situation, though this one was much different. It was just me. But the choice I had facing me on “that date” starting June 5th, 2008 was the same one I had as a junior in high school in 1976. Life or death. Fortunately, I chose life. Because if I didn’t give up alcohol, I was facing certain death and I knew it. Why? Because I nearly DID die from it and not just once, but THREE times. Three times I suffered seizures from February 2008 until June 2008. Today is September 18th, 2010 and it’s been quite a ride this past nearly 2 ½ years now. I’m alive because I said I CAN do this. I WANT to live.

Why is it for most of us that it takes life or death choices for us to say these words? And not just say them but to ACT on them? Why? Is that the way we are designed? Or is it something else? For me, I believe it’s a matter of faith. Faith in God and therefore faith in myself. It wasn’t that long ago that I thought I was the one who made this choice. As I’ve written here before, the only CHOICE I made was the only one God gave me. Free will. Right or wrong. Life or death.

Please look at these two stories of my life and then look at your own. The next time you think you CAN’T do something, or someone else says you CAN’T do something, ask yourself this question. Who says so? I’ll tell you who. Only you! You’re the only one who can make that choice. And the only choice you have is the same one I have or the same as anyone else has as God’s children. Free will. Right or wrong. Life or death. It’s your choice. Good luck!



  1. "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." Phillipians 4:13 Who am I to argue with that?

  2. So very true Mel. Thank you!

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  4. I sure needed to read this tonight! What great words of encouragement!

  5. Thanks Beth!

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