Saturday, March 16, 2013

In Safe Hands

On Wednesday my whole family drove to Broken Bow, Oklahoma, to spend three days in a giant cabin. I'll share more about our time there later as I hope to bum some pictures off my siblings. In the meantime, I'd like to tell you about something that happened while we were there...

On the 4.5-hour drive up, we passed lots of trucks loaded down with tons and tons of giant logs. As we marveled over the massive weight of these loads traveling at 70+ miles per hour on the two-lane country highway, Ethan just had to bring up a scene from Final Destination, a movie about a group of teens who narrowly escape death in a plane crash only to be relentlessly pursued by Death in various freak accidents.

"Remember the scene with the logging truck?" Ethan asked.

"Oh yeah," his friend Clayton answered. "A log broke loose and went right through a car."

"It impaled the driver," Ethan added eagerly.

I shuddered. "Let's talk about something else."

A Similar Logging Truck


Thankfully, our trip was uneventful, though I did get pretty scared on the ridiculously steep gravel road up to the cabin. As we bounced over and around deep craters, my little Sentra careened all over the narrow road. "Give it some gas," Clayton urged when the car started sliding backward and spewing rocks. "Lots of gas."

I pushed the pedal to the floor, and the tires spun out repeatedly, but we finally made it up. I breathed a sigh of relief as we reached our final destination.

The next afternoon, most of us caravaned out to Beavers Bend State Park for hiking and fishing. Accompanied by Ethan, Clayton, and my niece Hillary, I gingerly descended the gravel hill behind my sister Emily's Ford Expedition SUV, which was loaded down with Allyson and her cousins.

We'd scarcely turned back onto the two-lane highway when we spotted another logging truck in the distance behind us. Ethan made some comment about Final Destination, and I said, "What if we all had to slam on the brakes, and some logs came flying at us?" I dont' know why we thought that was funny, but we all chuckled over it.

Maybe a minute later, I pulled to a stop behind the Expedition, waiting to turn left into what we thought was the state park. (It was actually a couple miles farther.) The highway was surprisingly busy for a Thursday afternoon, and I tapped my foot impatiently as car after car flew by in the oncoming lane.

A blaring truck horn soon changed my annoyance to indignation; a trucker coming up behind us sounded his horn over and over. "How rude!" I thought. "We have a right to turn. He can wait."

The relentless horn blasts continued, gaining volume as the truck approached. I didn't really have time to think about it, but gradually I perceived that this was not road rage. I looked into the rear-view mirror just in time to see that logging truck bearing down on me, horn still blaring. Realization dawned at last. "He can't stop!"

My heart thudded as the truck grew larger, but I felt frozen to the spot, the way you feel in a bad dream when something's coming after you and you can't run. I hesitated for a fraction of a second more, then simultaneously jerked the wheel all the way to the right and jammed the gas pedal to the floor. The Sentra's petite engine roared as the car lurched forward, seemingly in slow motion.

At that same moment, a break in traffic came, and Emily's husband Paul started his left turn just as I surged around them toward the right shoulder, narrowly missing the right corner of their bumper. The logging truck rolled slowly on, passing between our two vehicles and on down the road.

My whole body shook as I drove to a parking lot where I could turn around. "Do you realize what almost happened to us?" I asked. "We just about got smashed like a tin can."

"Nah," Clayton said. "That truck was going pretty slow. It would've just pushed us forward."

"I don't think it mattered how fast it was going," I argued. "With a load that heavy, we would've been crushed between the truck and Emily's Expedition."

By the time we reached the actual state park, my heartbeat had returned to normal, and we were joking about the incident.

"Without my lightning-fast reflexes and the Sentra's hair-trigger responsiveness we would have been smashed for sure," I said. "Or maybe it would have been just Hillary and Clayton. As long as Ethan and I are safe, that's the main thing." But a moment later, I said, "No, I don't have fast reflexes. My reaction was very slow. God must have been protecting us."

Just then, we started over a long bridge over a dam. "Remember that scene in Final Destination 5 where the bridge-", Ethan began.

I held up my hand. "Enough with the Final Destination talk."

That evening when I shared the story with the rest of the family, everyone agreed that all 12 of us in both vehicles were lucky to be alive. Emily and Paul (and Allyson!) had only been saved by the timing of their turn. Like me, they'd heard the horn without realizing the truck driver couldn't stop.

"What a terrible vacation this could have been," Mom said soberly.

On the way home the next day (yesterday), I began to wonder if there might be something to this Final Destination thing. After seeing an electronic highway sign warning of a backup, I had exited the interstate, and my navigator--the same navigator that once tried to kill us by leading us to into a seedy part of Memphis late at night--was leading us on a merry chase through some scary parts of downtown Dallas.

At one point we had to stop at a green light as a fire truck turned in front of us. Eager to make up lost time, I proceeded into the intersection even though I wondered why the car in the next lane wasn't moving.

"Wait, Mama! There's another one," Allyson said.

I stomped the brake, stopping in the middle of the intersection. Sure enough, another fire truck was barreling toward us, but thanks to Allyson's quick thinking, it passed safely around us. I'd heard the siren, but I thought it was the first truck.

"Man, we were just about T-boned by a speeding fire truck," I said. I pointed at Ethan. "You and Clayton would've been smashed."

Ethan shrugged.

Well, since trouble tends to come in threes, I shouldn't have been surprised this afternoon when Death made another attempt, again while I was driving. This time I was driving Ethan to his dad's house when I idly noted that the pickup truck ahead of us had a large pillow-top mattress in its bed. Now, I've had a mortal fear of mattresses ever since my teenage years, when our vacuum cleaner salesman was killed in a freak accident involving a flying mattress on the highway. So I've always given vehicles with mattresses a wide berth.

But today I was lost in thought, my mind on heavy things, and I didn't give the truck a second thought even though the mattress wasn't tied down. Normally I'm in a hurry while driving; I always go with the flow of traffic, even if that's over the limit. But today, I guess I was thinking too much to be in a hurry. So as we sped up for a major highway interchange, I lagged behind that truck with the mattress, about a football field or maybe a bit more.

Just as the driver reached the junction with the other highway, the wind caught the mattress, and it came tumbling at us, end over end, borne aloft like a napkin on the wind. I caught my breath sharply, hitting the brake and moving to the right. The mattress thudded to a stop about 100 feet ahead of us, and a couple of cars behind us swerved to miss it, passing in front of us.

My hand flew to my heart. "What IS it with this Final Destination stuff?" I asked. This time I wasn't kidding. I was really spooked. "Three near misses three days in a row. That's creepy."

Ethan pulled his iPod headphones off and shrugged. "I don't know," he said.

I glanced heavenward. "Thank you, Jesus!"

Ethan put his headphones back on, and I was alone with my thoughts again. As my heart returned to normal, peace washed over me. I pictured myself cradled in God's giant hand as danger swirled harmlessly around me. In that moment, I realized death has no power over me! Nothing comes against me without God's permission. Nothing. He has ordained all of my days, including the last one. One day when He's ready to bring me home and let me see Him face to face, I will go to meet Him--and not a day sooner.

For the rest of the day, I've rested in the security of that truth. Lately I've felt so out of control, with all kinds of things coming at me that I don't want and can't change. This morning I had been struggling with my own emotions, battered back and forth like that flying mattress. But I realize now that I don't have to be so unsettled. God loves me, and He is always in control. No matter what threatens me--physically, emotionally, or spiritually--I am always safe in His hands. There's no place I'd rather be.

P.S. This evening I learned that I wasn't the only one who had a near miss on the way home from Oklahoma. My sister Amy, traveling with Mom and Dad, was caravaning behind Paul and Emily when both of their vehicles almost got into a horrific accident involving two semi trucks and two other cars, plus one reckless driver, all travelling about 70 miles per hour. God had his hand on them all.

P.S.S. Do you think we should all stop caravaning behind Paul?



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Gentz said...
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