Wednesday, January 12, 2011

This is the road; these are the Hands.

A few months ago I was in my first-ever car accident, and a few nights ago I had my first-ever breaking down experience.


After the accident, I started driving my grandparent's '95 Ford Taurus around when I couldn't borrow one of my parent's cars. Adam christened it "Mean Joe Green" shortly thereafter because it's absolutely an awful vehicle. It smells bad, doesn't have a working clock or heater, makes frightening sounds when it runs, and doesn't go faster than 70 mph, which is frustrating when you're used to barreling the thirty minute drive to your boyfriend's house at around 85. Yes, yes, I know...


Anyway, on Saturday night I decided to try the heater on my way to Turlock, because it was a particularly chilly 38 degrees and misting. About a minute after I turned it on, I smelled smoke....and then I saw smoke...and then the check engine light came on. My immediate thought: "Well, no kidding." My thought immediately thereafter: "OH MY GOSH MY CAR IS ON FIRE." This thought was followed by every other "This is bad, something is wrong, EVACUATE YOUR VEHICLE" signal on my dashboard lighting up like they'd been listening to too much Katy Perry. So I hightailed it over to the shoulder, grabbed all my stuff (much to the disappointment of all my elementary school teachers, I'm sure...but I was NOT letting all my medications and my favorite pair of boots go up in flames,) and then got the heck out of dodge and stood a good distance away on the steep embankment, watching my grandparents car send smoke signals into the rain and wondering what to do next.


The next hour or so plays back in my mind like one of those weird dream sequences in a movie with cheap special effects. Or like something off LOST. 


First, neither of my parents would answer their phones after I called three times, so I called Adam. His dad called a tow truck before I had even finished my first sentence, and they were both out the door to come get me before I had even finished explaining the situation. 
While I was still on the phone with Adam, somebody pulled over to see if I was alright. Initially this terrified me because all I could see was a dark figure walking towards me and I was stranded on a pretty ghetto stretch of highway, but it turned out to be an absolutely kind and well-intentioned gentleman who was extremely concerned for my well-being. He kept his distance, asked me very politely if he could look under the hood, told me the car wouldn't blow up, and stayed nearby until I was safely inside my car with the doors locked.
After that, my dad called me back and assured me he was on his way. It took him about three minutes to get to me, so I don't even want to know how fast he was driving. When I saw him I inexplicably started bawling, which is the embarrassing part of this story. Also embarrassing is how absolutely frozen I was after only twenty minutes or so outside. Granted it was 38 degrees with wind and mist, but at one point I lived in sub-zero temperatures and loved every minute of it. I guess I should just chalk both of those up to the trauma and move on....
About three minutes after my dad arrived, the tow truck showed up. This was amazing to me, as I was anticipating having to wait for at least an hour. I found out later that Adam's dad had told them that I was his daughter and demanded they put a rush on it, and apparently they listened to him. I was incredibly moved by this gesture and felt warm tingly feelings in mostly unfamiliar parts of my heart- parts that have to deal with the words "in-law" and "I do" and other far off delightful things. Shhh.
Another three minutes passed, and Adam and his father arrived. I leapt out of my dad's car to bury my face in Adam's chest, and was immediately commanded by three stern voices to get back in the car and let the men deal with it. I was so cold and distressed that this didn't even trigger my stubborn feminist impulses, so I obliged them. 
After that, everything flew by. There was a lot of shaking of hands and looking manly and pensive while examining engines and undercarriages, and then I was being shuffled from my dad's car into Adam's truck, and the three best men in my life were shaking hands some more and kissing me left and right and I felt like a baby princess being handed around at a coronation- helpless and a little confused and absolutely blissfully taken care of.


Before we left, I managed to shake the tow man's hand and thank him profusely for coming to the rescue. He looked exactly like the Little Tikes tow truck driver my brother used to play with as a child, and talked quite like I imagined he would- round, booming, jovial. His words struck me as profound even in such a hazy situation.


"No problem, young lady. You know, I gotta tell ya- I get me a lot of calls like this one, with sweet little things gettin' stuck out where it just ain't safe, and they have no idea what to do or who to call and they're stuck out in the God-knows-where. So it's a damn sight nicer to see one who's got three good men arguing over whether she's okay and who gets to take her home and what she needs and so forth. It's no trouble at all honey. You go get warm."


Curled up between Adam and his dad on the drive to their house, I reflected on those words as my body slowly stopped shivering. God has promised us that he will never give us more hardship than we can handle, and even though our primary response to something dramatic happening is a decidedly overdramatic mental outcry of "I CAN'T HANDLE THIS," He tends to use those situations to teach or reveal to us something good. In this case, it was a much-needed reminder of just how loved I am, and how cared for. Not just cared for emotionally, as in people sending me good thoughts and thinking of me affectionately, but actively cared for, in terms of people doing things to help me. I am simply a boater in the Lord's current, in a vessel built on the strong love of people around me: I may be the one rowing, but I would be going nowhere without those keeping me afloat. And even if I lose my way or stop paddling, my ship keeps on floating and my current keeps me bound toward my destination. These words are found in the book of Jeremiah, who was one of my favorite Biblical characters as a child:


"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
(Jeremiah 29:11)


God doesn't only say this to us, he declares it. Declares it! That's such a strong word, with such conviction. And Jeremiah is relating these words from the Lord to His people who have been captured and taken into Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar, who despite having a totally awesome name was a pretty huge jerk.


If God can follow through on his promise to restore his people from exile and tyranny, I have no business being all freaked out over a little car trouble- especially not when I'm already enveloped in His love and the love of the people He has placed in my life.


Now, if I can only remember this when I'm bent out of shape over having to ride the bus......


There's a world outside every darkened door,
Where blues won't haunt you anymore,
For the brave are free and love can soar-
Come, ride with me to the distant shore."



(Life is a Highway, Tom Chochrane.)

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