I drove my car into a ditch yesterday.
We were supposed to drive to St. Louis to tour an apartment we are considering for Jonathan’s fourth year at seminary. There had been some winter weather, but the area around us was clear and the roads looked fine from the Department of Transportation website and local news I checked beforehand.
About twenty miles into our trip, I started to experience some mild drifting while driving (well below the speed limit) on the interstate. It felt like the wind initially, so I didn’t worry about it. However, I must have been hitting black ice.
As I drove over what must have been a particularly bad patch, a semi truck passed me on the side, which I think kicked up a backdraft that caused my car to begin severely fishtailing. I slowed down and attempted to pull off on the side of the interstate, however the momentum from the back end of the car carried us into the soft shoulder. I managed to regain some control over the car and brought us to a stop in the ditch. Neither Jonathan or I was hurt in any way, and my car suffered no damage.
I am someone who is rarely “in the moment”—I’m usually planning what I need to do next or reflecting on something already passed. There is something surreal and nothing less than terrifying to be thrust so completely into the present, millisecond to millisecond passing at a snail’s pace.
It could have been a lot worse, and I am extremely thankful for the help we received from the emergency dispatcher, Illinois State Police Trooper, and tow truck drivers (the one who just stopped to check on us and the one who pulled my car out of the ditch) yesterday. I am also thankful for the many people who prayed for us before, during, and after our anticlimactic trip.
It could have been a lot worse, but I keep feeling the drifting sensation on the icy asphalt and the rattling stop in the snowy grass. I keep snapping back to the moment I thought “I need to pray, now” but the only words that I came out of my throat were “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.” I keep remembering a year and a half ago when I had an ovarian cyst rupture, also while driving, and that same-but-different feeling of an interminable present in which I can only pray for mercy and wait.
Needless to say, we didn’t end up going to St. Louis yesterday. We drove home. I made a pizza and we ate it with some ice cream and watched Frasier. I didn’t ever cry until bedtime, when the adrenaline finally wore off and I felt the body ache that comes after pushing down fear to react to an emergency.
Yesterday morning, I was saying my prayers while looking through an older devotional book we have. I happened upon a prayer for the beginning of a journey, so I prayed it. It struck my how serious it was—I usually am not particularly nervous at the outset of a trip, because by now I am accustomed to driving in a variety of settings and weather situations, and I consider myself a cautious, attentive, and defensive driver. I know I certainly take my safety, health, and wellbeing for granted, and yesterday was a stark reminder of that.
But we are okay, my car is okay, everything is okay. The weather was better today, so Jonathan and I went to a new coffee shop and enjoyed time together.
I’m okay. Really. And I feel better now having written this out.
I know that driving your car into a ditch isn’t the end of the world, but it sure did make me thankful for God’s gift of my family, friends, and my life on this earth, even if it sometimes means you drive your car into a ditch. I am thankful for my God who bends His Ear to all our prayers, even when they’re inarticulate.
“For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen.”