For What It’s Worth

Unusual “turn” of events

Normally, a turn-signal arm extending from the steering column of a car is used only to signal the direction a driver is planning to turn. But for an Illinois man a metal turn-signal arm signaled the answer to a mystery in his life for the last 16 years—why his left arm would set off a metal detector.

In 1963, some 51-plus years ago, the man was involved in a serious automobile accident. He lost control of his car on a slick highway and collided head-on with a semi. His car was heavily damaged, and he was hospitalized with broken ribs and multiple other injuries. Surgery was required, but he healed and went on with his life.

Then, one day 35 years later as he was being scanned with a hand scanner at the courthouse, the scanner went off when it passed over his left arm. This was especially perplexing because he had on a short sleeve shirt and the scanner was passing over skin and apparently nothing that could be hiding metal. He went to doctors and was told they could find nothing and supposed that he might have some metal fragments left from the surgery on his arm after the wreck.

Thinking the mystery was solved on why his arm would set off a scanner, he went on with his life for the next 16 years. Recently, though, as he was carrying a concrete block in his left hand, his arm began to hurt and became quite swollen. He went to a doctor, who removed a 7-inch long metal rod from the man’s arm.

The rod resembled a turn-signal arm, so the man went back to pictures he had of his wreck in 1963 and discovered that the signal arm on his car was missing. No longer. Apparently, the signal arm had become embedded in the man’s left forearm and was not discovered at the time of his treatment after the wreck or in the 51-plus years since. At least it didn’t until several days ago when it caused serious pain and swelling in his arm.

I was intrigued by this story and a number of thoughts ran through my mind. In my reflection, I was reminded that sometimes events or actions in our lives bring pain from which we recover and go on with life, thinking the event or action would have no direct future consequences. Then, unexpectedly, years later, we suffer pain that had its root cause in some painful event or action a long time ago.

This can happen to us physically and spiritually. In the midst of a time of spiritual pain, we may commit a sin that remains unseen or unacknowledged for years until suddenly its consequences strike years later, and we experience their pain. Unfortunately, what happens to us spiritually is not the result of an accident, as was the steel rod embedded in the man’s arm. Instead, our faith failures usually are the causes of embedded sin and the pain it brings.

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