I’m rather glad that God is pretty patient with me in many areas of my life… In the Bible, I think I see examples of where God “talks” to those He wants to influence in quiet and small ways as well as loud and huge ways. Think of the “still small voice” Elijah heard in 1 King 19:12 when God wanted to encourage him to get back to the tough work of telling people the truth. Or the big voice of God at Jesus‘ baptism (Matthew 3:17) telling the world what God the Father thought of Jesus His son.
Well, in case you didn’t know, God still uses a still, small voice sometimes, but pulls out the big guns when that fails… In my case, I’m good at listening to the still, small voice only every once in a while, sorry to say. But God is good at ramping up the message when needed.
One of the bold (e.g., unwise) statements I’ve made, including in front of our congregation, is that one of the last areas of my life I’ll ever turn over to God is my driving. I’ve even confessed that was a big reason why I didn’t think I’d ever post a “Jesus fish” on my car–I’d hate to think someone might judge Christians by my driving. (Which actually led to Grace making me a few “Jesus fish” out of pipe cleaners, which still hang around my rear view mirror even now…) But one aspect of my driving was a focus of God’s attention over a long timeframe.
For a long time, I’ve put myself too often in the position of driving when I’m tired. Many reasons for why and how I do that, really, but none of them as important as my health, my family’s well-being, and the lives and property of others. But, of course, I can’t slip that by God, and thankfully, He cares about all of those things more than my excuses. So I’ve been getting messages from God about the folly of these ways for a long time. There have been the whispers of my conscience telling me to stop for a break during a long drive or the second thoughts about the way I’m planning a drive. There are the nudges from others expressing concern about my driving and sleep schedules and my state of rest. And He provided out and out shoulder-taps from my wise and concerned wife and daughter at time who will question me while I’m driving about whether I’m alert as I should be… Lisa, my wife, actually likes to talk about how God sometimes “thumps” her in the head [Lisa pointed out that I really don’t listen to her, so I’ve edited this from “thunks” to “thumps” ;-)] about this or that–and things like drifting onto the side rumble strips on the highway or even riding up a bit on an angled road barrier on my left when driving were all definite thumps.
Eventually, though, God decided a crash was what was needed. And I’m very thankful that the crash didn’t involve profound death or even injury for others or me, not profound loss of property for others. It did lead to minor injury and property loss for me–and points on my license.
It was a day when I’d planned one of my crazy day-trips to Pennsylvania State University, which is about three hours drive from my home. Well, I’d departed at 5 AM to get there in time for an 8 AM breakfast among several of my company’s leaders and two college Deans. The day was then filled with meetings and a lunch with student leaders, a new building tour, a demonstration of great technology, and then a banquet to top off the visit. I hit the road at 9 PM to head home, expecting to get home around midnight. Around 10:40 PM, in an area near Harrisburg, PA where there were several successive exits to the next route and lots of curves, I entered an area where some construction work was underway and I fell asleep at the wheel just after coming around a bend. In the brief moment I was asleep, I failed to see traffic stopped ahead of me for the construction activities and crashed into the rear of a stationary large SUV. The impact awakened me, set off multiple airbags in my car, cause my seatbelt to yank back hard on my torso, caused the driver ahead of me to bump her head on her steering wheel, and did big damage (almost exclusively to my car).
When I exited my car, I spoke briefly to the other driver, who had a small cut above her eye–she quickly told me that she’s a rugby player and gets hit with worse most weekends. She was basically fine. I had a sore neck (probably from the driver’s side curtain airbag going off and bouncing my head away from the driver’s side car frame and window) and a sore side and chest (it turns out basically from how hard the seatbelt yanked back oon me–I think I didn’t even hit the steering wheel airbag). By God’s provision, an off-duty fireman trained in first aid came along very quickly. He quickly assessed the situation and was concerned I might have a neck injury so he manually immobilized my neck at the roadside until the ambulance crew could arrive and place me in a collar on a back board.
The ambulance took me to a local emergency room, where I was quickly assessed, x-rayed, and examined thoroughly. I was also able to call Lisa to let her know what had happened and that I was okay. They assessed me as well enough to release with instructions to visit my general practitioner very soon and to apply heat to the sore spots after 24 hours. I was released in the middle of the night at a hospital about one hour from my home. The nurses were kind enough to recognize that I needed rest and needed time before I could do anything about my situation, so they let me sleep until morning in a ready room. Bottom line of it all, the next morning I had a rental car brought to me, then visited the car to remove any contents I wanted to save as I was reasonably convinced it would be totaled, then headed home. The car was totaled, I was cited for inattentive driving, and points were added to my license. And God finally got my attention.
Now, since that time, I won’t say that everything has changed. I have become much more cautious about my driving schedules and the way I plan trips–I’m much more apt to plan an overnight stay now than I ever was, and I’m less likely to arrange an extended day trip. Not every factor in my life that’s led to my bad sleeping and rest schedule has changed, so I haven’t entirely changed my sleep schedule. But I’ve made improvements and become much more aware and circumspect about my driving safety. And I appreciate the persistence of God in getting my attention–I appreciate even the crash (even though the car I had was better than what I have now and it all was costly in several ways). After all, the whispers, nudges, head thumps, and shoulder taps hadn’t done the trick. Thanks be to God!