My panic attack and Simon Biles Olympic dreams.

Simon Biles is an amazing woman. She is powerful, charismatic, but still only human after all. After she pulled out of the event in the Olympics, much digital ink has been spilled. I grieve for her.

Last year, I had a car accident. A driver ran through a stop sign, came across to the far lane, and I couldn’t avoid him. He was convicted of “failure to yield.” His words were that he “looked down.” That’s a story for another day, including back pain for me, lessons learned about neck injuries and other things. It was a horrible accident, but fortunately my daughter and I lived to see another day.

What was unexpected was the panic attack. 2 months later, my family loaded up our van to move from Elk River Minnesota to Montreal, Canada where we would being serving our new ministry assignment. The stress of a move is always significant. This time, we would be pulling a trailer, moving a dog and cat, all during COVID. We were excited but also tired, emotional and overwhelmed.

Our day got a late start. I had documents that needed faxing and the locations weren’t open. Who needs a fax anyway? Heading out, we went through Wisconsin and started heading up towards the Upper Peninsula along the shores of Lake Michigan. We didn’t want to go through Chicago traffics so we decided to take the scenic route. If you’ve traveled with a family, you know trips take longer than expected. Night arrived long before we found our way to the hotel.

And I found myself driving deep in the woods of Wisconsin, pulling a trailer, responsible for my wife, my three wonderful kids, a dog and a cat. And suddenly, every side road became a danger. Every intersection hid an unseen vehicle that might fly out at any moment. My blood pressure is rising while writing this memory down. Trying not to concern the family, I didn’t tell them of my growing panic. I held on to the steering wheel and prayed for it to end. Mercifully it did, some 3 hours later.

I was shaken. I’m a grown man, have driven in some of the wildest cities in the world on both sides of the road. I’ve ridden my bike downtown through a European city (sorry mom, didn’t tell you.) I’ve bungee jumped, been charged by a gorilla and a herd of wild elephants. I have proof of all of these. But I never expected the panic attack. It was horrible, merciless, relentless and completely out of my control.

What is missed in the conversation is 2 things. What these gymnasts do is super dangerous. Who in their right mind does this kind of stuff? For those who say stuff like “if you can’t handle the heat,” well, I would invite you to try one of those flips. Just one. And i’ve been driving for 30 years with no accidents until I had one, an almost died. Ms. Biles gets it wrong and she is permanently injured, maybe dead.

The second is, what does it say about us as a nation that we lampoon someone because they fail our collective expectation. Strangely, we didn’t say that when she met the expectation.

I can understand, though I disagree, with political vitriol. But these kinds of attacks should remind us not of Simon Biles incredibly death defying, crazy skills. Rather, we should remember that there are things we still don’t understand about our minds and our emotions. And we should give grace. Because I sure needed it.