Reflections In Hindsight

Grace in the Rearview Mirror…it's closer than it appears

  • Ephesians 4:29

    Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (NIV)

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Yes, Jesus, PLEASE Take the Wheel

Posted by JoAnn Durgin on July 6, 2011

Few things in life are scarier than riding in a minivan (may it be duly noted the only vehicle you have at the moment, shared between four drivers) with your child – as her passenger. Add to that the first heavy downpour of rain she’s ever encountered as a new driver with her driver’s permit. Ah yes, the joys of parenting. I pray under my breath that all the intelligence genes she inherited from her summa cum laude father are in full, operational working order. And pray the calm-under-pressure attitude she got from her feisty mother will serve her well.

So, we’re driving Jim to his softball game after they’ve picked me up from my downtown office building in Louisville and Sarah from her job in southern IN (not as far as it might sound – just a hop, skip and jump away across the bridge spanning the Ohio River). You hear about the heavens opening up and dumping a deluge of flooding rains on an area within minutes… Get the picture? Blinding rain poured from the heavens. I murmured a prayer under my breath. If Chelsea can get through this, she’ll get through anything.

 “Chelsea, you do know where the knob is to control the windshield wipers, right?” I’m not even sure who asked. Me, I think. Maybe Sarah.

“Um, no.” Chelsea veers slightly over the line into the lane on the right as she’s fumbling for the control.

“On the lever to the left of the steering wheel,” I instruct, maintaining my semblance of calm although I can envision a trip to the dentist in the near future for my teeth grinding problem. But there’s no sense in getting Chelsea panicky.

“Chelsea, watch it!” That from my all-knowing, all-wise 21-year old, Sarah. “Most accidents are caused by people not paying attention, you know.”

“I’m paying attention!” Chelsea protests. “I’m just trying to find the stupid knob. And it’s texting and stuff that causes accidents.” Thank goodness, she readily finds the knob and turns on the windshield wipers.

Then the middle-aged guy (and midlife crisis candidate) driving the old, restored Corvette in front of us makes the snap decision to come to a dead stop under the highway overpass – right in the middle of the street – so he can put the top up on his convertible. “Look out!” That from all three of us. I can’t help it as my hand grips the arm of my seat. Chelsea immediately steps on the brake – to her credit, not too hard. She darts those big green/gray eyes my way and seems somewhat assured by my shaky but semi-confident smile and head bob. I’m suddenly reminded of one of the most profound things my brother ever told me in terms of driving: “Remember, JoAnn, they’re all nuts.” Even though I’m an optimist, those words make a lot of sense in terms of defensive driving.

“Just watch for puddles to avoid hydroplaning, Chelsea. It hasn’t rained in a few days,” I advise. “The build-up of oil on the road makes it slick.”

My daughter nods, dutifully resuming her 10-and-2 position on the steering wheel (people really do that?), stepping gingerly on the accelerator as we once again move forward. I can almost see the sigh of relief escaping from her. Chelsea’s tough like her mother. She’ll be just fine.

“Chelsea, there’s a cop coming out of that alley. I hope you have your permit!” I turn halfway in my seat and silence Sarah with a zip it look and do that silly close your mouth gesture where it looks like I’m turning a key over my lips. Yeah, our oldest got the teasing thing from her dad.

“This is nuts,” Jim grumps, slumping against the seat behind Chelsea, peering out the window with a disgruntled frown. He’s obviously more concerned about weather patterns than survival and defensive driving skills at the moment. “It’s raining on the west side of the street but dry on the east side!” Why does the man constantly employ directions as part of his everyday vocabulary? As he sits stewing in his softball uniform (pretty cute, I have to admit – after almost 24 years of marriage, I’m thankful I still call him cute), he expresses a wish for continuing rain to aid his frustrated attempts at killing the weeds in our pitiful lawn (don’t ask, please). Yet another part of him really wants to play – something about that male bonding thing that is sports. But he’s also rather exhausted from playing basketball for two hours on his extended lunch hour (poor baby). I can’t help the eye roll that meets this statement: “I’m not sure I’m up to playing two hours of softball tonight, anyway.” You must understand all the “Why does she have to get off late, tonight of all nights? I really have to get to the field to warm up before the game,” comments we endured as we waited for Sarah to get off from work.

I’m just thankful 15-year-old Matthew isn’t in the car. He and Chelsea have enough squabbles in the summer when they have too much time on their hands. One thing’s for sure – he would probably hold any driving mistakes over her head and never let her forget it. Sound vaguely familiar? On the other hand, he’s generally a very sweet kid and would no doubt be looking out the car windows for the inevitable rainbow since the sun is shining in spite of all the rain. Like his dad, he loves all things directional and weather patterns. But he sees the goodness, the light and the rainbows of life (although he does love storms).

A couple of hours later, I sit here wondering what to write about. I’m thinking about how the Lord has protected me in a car on several occasions. I can say I was on the side of the car (a Gremlin – remember those? I’m just thankful it wasn’t a Pinto) bumped by a semi on a highway outside Indianapolis. The driver of our car (a sorority sister) missed the exit and decided she wasn’t going to backtrack. So, she stops, shifts the car into reverse, and heads onto the freeway exit ramp. Enter semi. Swerve car. The truck clipped the back of the Gremlin, sending us spinning. But the car didn’t flip. And it was nothing short of a miracle no one was hurt.

A few years later, in Dallas, I encountered the underside of a semi, up close and personal when the back end of my cute, treasured Mustang slid beneath it (after yet another swerve). You know, in that all-important hindsight, it’s a miracle I don’t have nightmares about trucks. I literally walked away from that accident with glass hanging from my hair. With nary a scratch on my head otherwise. I feel compelled to tell you this was a no-fault collision, but I found it difficult to believe the truck driver stood in the middle of the street complaining about the blonde in the silver car while I marched off to a nearby hotel to call a tow-truck and the police. The only other time I had such an encounter was my fault. High on life after signing my first publishing contract (and yes, this is where my confession comes into play in today’s blog), I swung out of our driveway a little too fast and clipped the corner of the brick wall of the garage. This time, I didn’t swerve far enough or fast enough. Unfortunately, the wall won. I’ll never forget the man at church shaking his head, trying not to laugh, and asking me, “JoAnn, at what point did you realize you’d actually hit the wall?” Not until I’d demolished most of the right side of the van. But hey, no one was hurt. The only thing hurt was my pride. But someday I’ll employ that experience – and my resultant feeling of incredible stupidity – into a book. Ah, He has a way of keeping us humble, doesn’t He?

I, for one, am so thankful and grateful that I have Someone to take over when my humanity fails me, as it so often does. And I’m not just talking about driving. I really am a good driver, but yes, the rest of the world can be a bit nuts. I’ll pray for our children and all the young people out there to maintain their focus in a world gone crazy. May I always keep my eyes on the road, and on the task He sets forth for me, and fulfill the unique and wonderful purpose He intends for me. As I pray the same for you. Until next time, blessings my friends.

Jeremiah 29:11: For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.

One Response to “Yes, Jesus, PLEASE Take the Wheel”

  1. I was practically gripping MY seat reading the account of your daughter driving in that downpour! You are SO calm under pressure! True confessions: I had to give the job of training our kids as new drivers to my husband. I couldn’t take the stress! All I could think was, “I used to change this boy’s diapers and now I’m entrusting him with my life?” But you’re so right—our lives are in God’s hands. And He does know the plans he has for us. Great post JoAnn! You must be a well-known writer! ;-)

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