“A hero is someone who voluntarily walks into the unknown.”
“But we never go that way.”
At six o’clock in the morning, our family was loaded up and heading out for an early sound check at a church located just over an hour from our home. With Kerry behind the wheel and our son in the back seat, I sat beside my husband with a towel draped across my lap covered in cosmetics. We were only one mile into the journey when it happened. After twenty-four years of going straight at the nearby stop sign, my husband turned left.
What in the world?
I wish I could explain how strangely disconcerting it felt. To not be looking. To assume we were going straight. Then to physically feel our vehicle not go straight. It was the craziest thing, like taking a sip of fizzy soda when you are expecting iced tea. Crazy, because like me, Kerry West is a creature of habit. But on that particular day, my predictable husband did the unpredictable. He turned left.
Being that I am the type of wife who “helps” her husband drive, I immediately asked why he was heading south. And being that he is the type of husband who wants his wife to not “help” him drive, he calmly yet assertively answered that it was his plan to check our tire pressure at the small gas station just down the road before hitting the interstate. I can’t tell you how badly I wanted to remind him that there were several gas stations along our usual route. But I didn’t. For some reason unbeknownst to me, I found myself continuing to quietly apply my make-up, grateful that I am married to the type of guy who double-checks tire pressure. Yet oddly, after he checked the tires, Kerry didn’t head north and backtrack to the stop sign (translation: “the correct way”). Instead, he turned right and proceeded south (translation: “the wrong way”).
What in the world?
In my defense, I wasn’t the only one who questioned his sense of direction. Even our GPS spoke up and told the man to turn the van around. When he didn’t, words began to rise upward from the inner Vesuvius of my soul and spill across my lips. “Why are we going this way? It’s farther.”
“Because we’ve never gone this way,” responded the husband in a calm yet passive-aggressive tone intended to remind me which West was in the driver’s seat.
“Fine,” thought the wife, reaching for her eye shadow. “But it’s going to take us longer.”
After traveling several miles, Kerry again made a turn. This time, it was onto a highway that joins the middle of nowhere with the middle of nowhere. But it’s impressive, I’ll give you that—a four-lane thoroughfare with beautifully mowed grass in the median and wide gravel shoulders built over a decade ago to deliver potential motorists to a tourist destination that never materialized. The road is virtually abandoned but for the few folks who live in the area. On that early Sunday morning, my husband was owning the open road before him, regardless of my waning irritation.
It was along that stretch of highway as the radio played that I randomly looked up from my make-up mirror to catch a glimpse of an unusual flash of light at the top of a distant hill before us.
“Did you see that?”
“A green flash of light.”
“I don’t think so.”
What in the world?
I felt sure that I saw something, so as we crested the hill, Kerry slowed down for a look around. There was dust in the air. A car had possibly driven off the road, I suggested. Nearby, a wooden pole strung with power lines dangled between heaven and earth. An impact with the pole could have caused the green flash of light. Continuing down the gravel shoulder, we surveyed the steep ravine below us for any sign of disturbance. Suddenly we spotted a small pick-up truck, upside down, with smoke billowing upward from the engine.
Without a thought, Kerry stopped the van and quickly descended down the embankment toward the smoldering heap while I called 911. With Graham remaining safely in our vehicle, I frantically paced the shoulder of the road, praying for both my husband and whoever was inside the truck.
When Kerry approached the cab, he found a young driver, slow to respond. I watched helplessly as my husband tried with all his might to jar open the doors but the crushed metal would not yield. The smoke was beginning to intensify as Kerry made his way to the back of the truck where he was able to remove the rear window, a solid sheet of fractured glass. It was around that time that a large pick-up truck pulled up behind me. After explaining to the driver what was happening, he carefully made his way downward to my husband who, by this time, had pulled the young man from the wreckage. It was a slow, difficult climb to safety, the steepness of the grade forcing the men to often stop and catch their breath. By now, the smoke had become a flame, one that rapidly intensified as I continued to shout for them to hurry. The fire that at first merely scorched the underbrush was now setting the surrounding trees ablaze. After what seemed like an eternity, the men as a heap crested the hill and made their way to the passerby’s tailgate where they carefully laid the driver down to assess his injuries. A moment later, the gas tank of the pick-up truck—now completely engulfed in flames—exploded.
I ran to our van to fetch the towel from the front seat and began applying pressure to the gaping wound on the young man’s head. His name was Zach, he said, and by now, he was sitting up, somewhat dazed, his speech slurred. Kerry then took over while I used Zach’s cell phone to call his mother. As the young man watched the fire and grieved over the loss of his truck, Kerry tenderly reminded him that what could have been lost was his life. And I cried.
Soon after, the police, paramedics, and firefighters arrived, and our family was once again on our way to the Sunday morning concert. For a long while, we rode in silence. What if Kerry hadn’t turned left? What if he hadn’t decided to check our tire pressure at the little store south of the stop sign? What if he then hadn’t chosen to take the longer “scenic route?” And what if I hadn’t glanced up to see that brief flash of light? What would have happened to Zach?
What in the world?
Six months later, our mayor—upon hearing the story—declared a “Kerry West Day” in our small town. Six years later, I continue to thank the Lord for daily ordering our steps. For nudging our spirits even when it doesn’t make sense to our heads. And for using ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary deeds.
A hero is made in the moment, and my husband (who turns sixty this week) is a fearless wonder. Who knows…maybe one day I will learn to be quiet and let him drive. Miracles still happen.
“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, you will hear a voice saying,
‘This is the road! Now follow it.’”
Isaiah 30:21, Contemporary English Version
Kenna Turner West is a Dove Award-winning songwriter and three-time AG/SGM Songwriter of the Year, co-writing hit songs such as “Say Amen” and “Revival.” With fifteen #1 songs and twelve “Song of The Year” honors to her credit, Kenna’s songs have been recorded by artists such as Jason Crabb, Hillary Scott (of Lady Antebellum), The Isaacs, The Booth Brothers, Karen Peck & New River, The Martins, Brian Free & Assurance, Jeff & Sheri Easter, The Collingsworth Family, The Oak Ridge Boys, The Blackwood Brothers, The Talleys, The Hoppers, Legacy Five, Adam Crabb, Wes Hampton, Tribute Quartet, Canton Junction, Finding Favour, Gordon Mote, The Bowlings, Joseph Habedank, Gold City, Ivan Parker, and many more. She has also penned four musicals, including the upcoming 2016 Word Music release, “O Night Divine.”
For over thirty years, the author and certified counselor has blended music, devotional teaching, and humor into a ministry that has reached across the nation and around the world. Whether she is writing songs in Nashville or ministering alongside noted Christian leaders at venues ranging from The Pentagon to NASCAR chapels to the local church, Kenna’s life has a singular call: to creatively communicate the Living Hope found in Jesus Christ. For more information about Kenna and her ministry, please visit www.KennaTurnerWest.com.