Mom and I spoke at a teen girls’ purity day in Ripley, Mississippi that weekend. On a fluke, I decided to drive to Huntsville in convoy with Mom when we finished speaking to visit for a couple of days rather than heading straight home to Columbus. Mom had Ezra in the car with her, and I had Colleyanna with me.
During the last half of the 4-hour stretch of highway between Ripley and Huntsville, I noticed something strange. A man in a white car was traveling in the lane beside me on 72. Whenever we entered those small towns, he always seemed to be right beside me at each stoplight. He’d wave and honk, he’d smile, roll down his window, and try to get me to roll down mine. Making momentary eye contact with him, I thought maybe this was someone I knew. But I definitely did not recognize that grill or those dreadlocks. By the time we got to Decatur, though, I knew them very well.
Mom and I started communicating about the little car that was darting in between us and then in front of us and then behind us and then right beside us for what seemed like very long stretches of highway. Then we both started communicating with our husbands, who were advising us to call the police. Mom talked with 911 dispatchers in three of the little towns and officers were watching for our little caravan to pass through.
But as we exited each little town, we apparently just missed the officers and the little car stuck with us no matter the speed or direction we traveled. Once he veered way over into my lane and my right wheels were forced off the road. Once he turned off to the right only to make a very quick U-turn and come right back onto the main road and dart in between our SUVs again.
By that time, Mom was describing to the dispatcher in Decatur, Alabama exactly what was happening. The lady said,
“Whatever you do, don’t stop. When you get to the bridge in Decatur, turn right. Be sure you turn right and I’ll direct you to the police station. Even if he gets way ahead of you (and he didn’t) and even if he turns left (and he did), you do not turn left. It’s getting dark and he could stop ahead and wait for you at the boat dock. You just come here and we will know you are safe.”
We did and she did and it felt incredibly good to be in that municipal building where, incidentally, Ezra was in police-car-heaven. (Best thing about the whole weekend for him!) It wasn’t long before the report was filed and we were escorted back to Huntsville where my Dad, who was on his way to the rescue, met us on a familiar exit and took us all to Cracker Barrel, where all is (always) right with the world.
It did take a few hours, though, for me to stop feeling nervous and anxious. I felt a little skittish every time a car approached mine in the lane next to me at a red light or darted in front of me as I tried to exit. I thought of that scary drive when I’d see dreadlocks or little white Fords. But I also have thought a lot about the good things about that afternoon. It’s what my Mom calls the “blessing trail” and it’s always an open road when the “other road” gets a little treacherous. There are always blessings, even in (may be even especially in) the most difficult days. Here are some that are apparent to me:
- I just happened to be riding in convoy with my mom when this happened. I’m very glad there was one of us to talk to the police while the other kept up with directions and Colleyanna and writing down the tag number, etc….
- I was never afraid my car was going to break down. My husband works very hard to provide for our one-income family, so much so that we are able to afford reliable transportation. I don’t like to think about what could have happened had one of us experienced an engine failure or an overheated radiator.
- I had just filled my car with gas when this happened, as did my mother. (I had even looked at my mom incredulously when she had pulled over for gas at an old run-down little station in Ripley. But it was there that an old-fashioned attendant had actually pumped the gas for me. That was an experience I’d never even encountered before.) Stopping could have been the only option had this not been the case.
- My children were fairly quiet during all of this. Had they been yelling or crying or begging to “potty” or disobeying (as all kids do at one time or another), it would have been lots harder than it was.
- The 911 responders on the phone with my mom (in three towns) were all willing to help. One was especially helpful and kind and remained on the phone with my mom as long as was necessary to get us to a safe place.
- I was the one who was afraid rather than my being the road bully. So glad to be me and not him.
- The police had a lot going on that night (three groups in the office when we arrived) but they escorted us to safety.
- My dad and husband happened to both be at home that night and they answered their phones. Both voices were very reassuring.
- My vehicle was three times bigger than the one that tried to run me off the road.
- The night ended, for my sweet children and me, in a safe and protected place.
I’ve also been thinking about how the road to heaven is similar to the road home that night.
- As Christians, we travel in convoy with others who are like-minded. God didn’t intend for His people to make this journey alone (Gal. 6:1-10).
- Like a reliable car and a full tank of gas in a time of panic, we carry with us the providence of God at all times (Romans 8:28).
- Like the 911 responder, there are always others who are ready to rescue when we find ourselves in spiritual danger (Heb. 10:24-26). God is definitely the first responder whenever we face a spiritual emergency. (Phil. 4:6, Lk. 11:9, Psa. 34:17).
- There is always—ALWAYS—someone trying to run me off the narrow road that leads Home (Matt. 7:13) . Because the devil is who he is ( I Peter 5:8), you and I will always be tempted in one way or another to leave the safe “pavement.”
- It’s important not to stop.
- Our transport Vehicle through this world is infinitely bigger and more dependable than anything that can try and harm us (I Cor. 10:13).
- Like the children who never even knew of any danger, there are always innocent people influenced by paths I choose. May I always remember the children who will be affected by my choices.
- There’s always a right turn. I pray I will always see it and take it.
- There is always a Father who’s listening. He’s concerned for you, loving you, waiting to wrap you up in a warm embrace to welcome you back to safety. I’ll never forget how my dad’s embrace felt that night when my tear-stained face was pressed against him, his arms wrapped around me. I was safe. I was loved. The Father runs (Luke 15:11) to wrap us in His arms. He is always on the Mooresville exit, waiting for us. He wants to take us home.
- Things that are relatively small when placed in the context of a lifetime can seem overwhelming in the moment. I need to think more about the bigger picture that God sees and the safety that’s mine when He is with me, even when the darkness of trials and temptation closes in for a time.