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Pathway of Peace
Even in the midst of life-changing tragedy and its aftermath, it is possible to experience peace that can restore.

From celebrating one day, to clinging to life the next.

Gil and Kim Ahrens had taken advantage of a cousin’s wedding to introduce their three-week-old daughter to friends and family, but the day ended much differently than planned.

Gil and Kim Ahrens

With his sister in the seat beside him, his wife and daughter in the backseat, Gil was driving along an undivided highway in 2002 when oncoming headlights drifted into his lane. The out of control car slammed into them head on.

His sister sustained minor injuries, but was able to retrieve his unharmed daughter, Olivia, from her car seat. Gil was trapped in the car with extensive injuries to his foot, but conscious.

“My wife,” he recalls, “was in a very different situation.”

Without the benefit of airbags, Kim was paralyzed from the neck down. “Her life was in the balance. She was in a coma.” It would be a long journey for the Ahrens family from simply trying to survive at a Denver hospital to living at home in the San Francisco Bay area.

It was a journey, however, they would not make alone. “There were a number of people who were part of our circle,” Gil, now 46-years-old, recalls. “I called them our Care Team. It was all these people who came around to support and love us.”

Most important, however, was his relationship with God. “I can’t imagine where I’d be now if God had not been intimately involved in the struggle and process of getting through it,” he says.

It was in graduate school when Gil decided to make his parents’ Christian faith his own and begin a personal relationship with Jesus.

“If Jesus is the most important person who has ever lived,” he reasoned, “and that person also died and divinely ordained a way for us, that kind of changes what you’re looking at. It was a really profound moment for me.” Gil’s wife of 14 years has made huge progress since that night.

Kim has regained the use of her arms and is everyday finding more strength in her legs, even to the point of using a walker to move short distances. She uses a specialized wheelchair and a ramp van she can drive with her hands.

Before the accident, Kim was passionate about alpine skiing. When she found out she was pregnant, she couldn’t wait to share her love of the sport with her daughter. It was her goal to get Olivia on skis as early as possible.

While the accident put some obvious challenges in front of this goal, Kim wouldn’t let it stop her from showing Olivia what winter had to offer. She discovered a program at Lake Tahoe, where she could learn to ski using an adaptive ski sled. While nervous at first about the change, Kim found that she enjoyed the new way of skiing, and that the rush going down the hill was more intense.

Even better, she was able to be with her family as Olivia was introduced to the slopes. “We have our challenges and issues, like everyone. Sometimes ours are just a little more complicated,” Gil explains. For example, Kim’s van breaks down and requires special components, and her wheelchair requires non-standard parts for repairs.

“There is definitely no way we could have managed as well as we have without God central in our lives and leaning on Him,” Gil continues. “We rejoice and suffer just like everyone else, but we do it all knowing our time here is short, but that an eternity in Heaven will be beyond compare.”

Even in the midst of a life-changing crisis and its aftermath, the Ahrens family have been able to enjoy a sense of peace. “When you become a Christian, you experience an incredible sense of joy and peace as you get connected to the Father,” Gil explains.

Gil, a business consultant, knows not everyone will face a crisis like theirs, but that most will face some sort of major trouble or hardship. “When you look at the stuff around us, financial or health troubles, they certainly are urgent,” he acknowledges. “But when you’re with God, it isn’t so hard.”

Having experienced firsthand the peace that comes from God, Gil is eager to help others find the same. That’s the goal of his recently released book, Shattered, Shaken, and Stirred (Positano Press), which tells the story of his family’s crisis and how they reconnected with God in the midst of tragedy.

“People who go through challenges often think they are alone. Part of my intent was to say that they – we – are not alone … God really is in those places where we hurt and struggle, and we confess that we need Him,” he explains.

“There are some things, like cancer, an ill child, an accident, that feel like a punch to the gut, and it takes your breath away,” Gil says. His recommendation is to “… ask for help and know that’s where God is. That feeling of relief … surrender your pride and let God look out for you.”

Gil has seen God work in his family, and has experienced firsthand the joy and peace that comes from a relationship with Him.

“It’s certainly better than any other kind of peace,” he says. “When we’re living our own life and then we give our life to Christ, we realize He has our wellbeing at heart.”

Originally published in Living Light News, May, 2010.

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