WHAT’S YOUR STORY? Pastor’s journey is ‘beautifully broken’

It was Friday afternoon, Sept. 18, 2020. 

Our church was still in recovery mode after Hurricane Laura and I had planned a meeting that night with some of the young leaders in our church to discuss post-COVID, post-hurricane church life and to set some disciple-making goals. This was a really important meeting for us.

So that afternoon, I decided to take my e-bike that I’d gotten over the summer out for a ride just to relax and clear my head. The last thing I remember is riding down an empty stretch of road in the back of our community and then … nothing. My next memory is waking up in a hospital ICU bed three days later.

I would later learn that I’d had an accident—what my doctors called a “high-impact incident.” Based on the timeline, they think I lay there unconscious on the side of the road for a half-hour before a high school kid driving home from school found me. In the ER, my wife tells me I was saying, “I’ve got to get home and get ready to preach” and “Who’s going to preach for me?” I don’t remember any of that.

I’d suffered a traumatic brain injury that left me with bleeding and swelling between my brain and my skull that required two craniotomies to repair. Because I also had acute respiratory failure, I had to be put on a ventilator. My left arm was shattered. I later had a series of debilitating seizures in which I lost feeling and use of the right side of my body because it was a left-brain injury. I was immobilized for weeks.

Jeremy Bradshaw, pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Bridge City, was involved in an accident on his e-bike. His faith and the faith of his family was challenged and strengthened during his recovery. Photos submitted

In the days that followed I had severe hallucinations due to the brain trauma and some of the effects of the medication I was on. Seizures, memory loss, panic attacks, anxiety, I went into deep depression at times—and not just during the hospital stay. September through December, those were very difficult months. I also suffered from confusion, blurred vision, intense headaches, weeks of sleeplessness. I think the first time I slept through the night for five or six hours straight was sometime around Christmas. Rehab was very productive, but it was a grueling process.

During my second hospital stay (due to some setbacks I was having), my neurosurgeon, Dr. Ian Angel, came to follow up with me. That’s when he really gave us the scope of how severe these injuries were and brought the gravity of the situation to us. In that conversation, he said there’s something called the “Golden Hour” where, after a traumatic brain injury, doctors only have about an hour to treat you, save your life and to mitigate against long-term disability. He said, “You were past that hour. You shouldn’t be here.” My wife and I were in tears, and I just said instinctively, “Dr. Angel, thank you for saving my life.” This I remember clearly—he looked at us and said, “No, I didn’t save you. God saved you.”

I took that as a mandate. I’m responsible to share how God preserved me through suffering and to tell others of the hope that I have—and that we all can have—in the midst of suffering because of the suffering of Jesus. That has stayed with me every week, and I’m thankful for that. My pain reminds me of my responsibility to use this for God’s glory.

My first Sunday back in the pulpit was Jan. 3, 2021. Preaching normally feels so natural. It’s just what God has called and equipped me to do. But on that day, I was scared to death. It felt like my first sermon all over again. I preached out of Psalm 23, which felt very appropriate, and about how I walked through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, but it was just a shadow. I didn’t die and God was there with me.

God used that experience and the trauma that followed to really strengthen the faith of each member of my family. They had to care for me and they got to see God at work in providing for us. Short of Jesus, my wife is my hero. It’s amazing how God used her to care for me, to care for our kids. She had to keep things going because I wasn’t able to be much of a husband at the time.

On one hand I’d say God used this trauma to do a sanctifying work in our hearts and in our home, but also, God used this as a platform to minister to others. Through this God has opened doors for me to share the gospel, to counsel others. In the last year we’ve been able to grieve with those who are grieving and encourage those who are hurting in a way that maybe we didn’t fully appreciate before and with an added sensitivity. We’ve tried as much as possible to use this, even if just for a moment, to express our hope in Christ and how God’s provided.

Oh, and remember how I was going to meet with those young adults in our church to cast vision and talk about goals and disciple-making before my accident? They eventually had that meeting without me and started discipleship groups on their own. It was such a joy to see that God doesn’t need me to accomplish his work. Don’t get me wrong—I’m glad that he wants me, but this is his church and he can raise up leaders and do what he wants. He’s got this covered.

So what’s my story? I’m a living example that God’s grace is sufficient for you and his power is made perfect in weakness.

What's your story?

Want to share a story of what God is doing in your life or your church? 

Jeremy Bradshaw
Liberty Baptist Church in Bridge City
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