Who could have imagined that this would be the day I would nearly get to see my beloved, deceased mother and brother again?
I had plans for this day. Lunch with a friend. A little blogging. Preparation for Tuesday’s panel presentation to VTS seniors. Tying up loose ends before returning to the full vibrancy of parish life on Tuesday, and plenty of deep breathing. I had plans.
I’m not sure why I awakened with a heavy heart. I found myself not in the mood for the drive to Maryland despite the promise of a great meal with a wonderful friend. A two hour power outage did not help. The cold rains and grey skies made matters worse. Twelve outfits later I still could not shake the gloom. Nonetheless, being a determined (did someone say driven) person, I set out anyway.
I was still in a funk when my car decided it wanted to take over. There I was traveling down the exit ramp off the GW Parkway onto I-495 when the car went into a skid.
Let’s talk flashback. I could hear my dad giving me driving instructions on how to regain control of a car when the car loses traction and starts to hydroplane. In Pennsylvania, with its long, snowy and icy winters, this is essential training. No matter which corresponding direction I turned, I could not regain control. In seconds I could see that the car was heading for a ditch and the tree on the other side of the ditch. About that time, I do believe I cried out, “O God, help me.”
The next thing I knew I was in that ditch, back out of that ditch and heading in the direction of I-495 traffic, still with minimal control of the car. Strangely enough, no cars came up behind me on that exit ramp. I realize now that with God’s help I was in a death grip struggle to regain control of that car and of my life.
In case you’re wondering, there was no replaying of my life before my eyes or even in my mind. There was only the sense of a hard, cold slap into the reality of the moment. I was about to be hit by rapidly approaching traffic. One more time, one more time I thought. I gave the car just one more maneuver and by some amazing grace of God, found myself again in control and the car rolling to a slow halt.
Let’s talk flashback again. The last time I was driving somewhere in a deep funk was the morning I received news that the husband of the same friend I was on the way to see had died after an extended battle with cancer. Although I was on my way, I was struggling to compose myself so that I could provide comfort to my friend and her family. I had stopped at a traffic light in Washington DC when a taxi cab rear-ended me. I remember three things. (1) the sense of having just been slapped out of my funk back into present reality; (2) the realization that no significant damage had been done to myself or to others; and (3) the calming attitude of gratitude and optimism that came over me as I witnessed God’s intervention, protection and provision from beginning to end.
Just like before, God did it again.
I was alive. I actually tried to drive the car to my friend’s house for several miles before the overheating censor came on. I pulled over to the shoulder of I-495 on a rainy day in Washington D.C. and did not get hit. AAA arrived twenty minutes later (note I did not say 20 hours later) with a readiness to drive me wherever I wanted to go (thanks be to God my AAA coverage did not fall prey to my cost saving measures). Before long, I was in Springfield speaking with my mechanic and waiting for my sister to arrive.
This is how good God’s salvation is. My sister and I decided to have lunch before heading back home. When we came out of the restaurant, we saw that her car now had a flat tire. I could have said “Really God?” Instead, in that cold rainy parking lot, we laughed. You see, we figured it out. It could always be worse. We were not in a ditch without air.
A couple of years ago Carrie Underwood released a song entitled “Jesus Take the Wheel”. The song chronicles the journey of a woman driving to her parents’ home in Cincinnati one snowy white Christmas Eve. Her baby is in the backseat of the car. Anyone remember the lyrics?
Fifty miles to go and she was running low
On faith and gasoline
It’d been a long hard year
She had a lot on her mind and she didn’t pay attention
She was going way too fast
Before she knew it she was spinning
On a thin black sheet of glass
She saw both their lives flash before her eyes
She didn’t even have time to cry
She was so scared
She threw her hands up in the air
Jesus, take the wheel
Take it from my hands
Cause I can’t do this on my own
I’m letting go
So give me one more chance
To save me from this road I’m on
Jesus, take the wheel.
Not a bad idea folks. Not a bad idea. It sure came in handy for me today. Jesus take the wheel. Give me a new perspective, a new attitude, a renewed awareness of your presence and just a bit of your saving grace. Most of all, I can go to bed tonight knowing, whatever is going on in my life or in yours, we’re most likely not in a ditch without air.