Friday, March 2, 2012

Good Memories of God at Work

I started reading a book this evening and what I read triggered a wonderful memory.

Shortly after we were married we signed up to attend a 2 week long spiritual conference in the next town to the east of us, about a 40 minute daily drive there and back.

We arranged to carpool for the entire conference with an elderly lady from our church. At first we were excited to have the chance to share the driving and wear and tear on our vehicles, but after our first day of riding in her car with her at the wheel the excitement quickly dissipated.  This dear lady was nearly blind due to a serious eye condition and by the time we arrived at our destination the very first morning Dell was green with fear and I was cowering on the floor in the back seat of her car. The dear woman drove right down the centre of the narrow 2 lane highway completely oblivious to the oncoming traffic. If Dell had not grabbed the wheel several times we would have had several head on collisions.  Neither of us had ever been, nor have been since, that terrifed in someone else's car.

After an equally terrifying return trip we sat up half the night trying to come up with polite reasons to take our own car for the rest of the conference and have her ride with us.  We tried several lines of reasoning the next morning and she was having none of it.  She had been a missionary for most of her adult life, enduring unimaginably dreadful living conditions, and her greatest joy since leaving the mission field had been getting her drivers licence at the age of 68!  Apparently the examiner had no idea that she would actually be driving after passing the exam!!!

We toughed it out but Dell managed to convince her during the second week, thank you merciful Jesus, to allow him to drive even on the days we rode in her car.  I don't remember what miraculous argument he used, but she did listen until the second last day.  That day she insisted she was going to drive, so Dell kept his seatbelt secretly undone in case he had to grab the steering wheel or reach his foot over to hit the brakes and I returned to my seat on the floor.  It was the worst drive ever!!  I got back into our house that evening and sobbed from pent up fear.

It wasn't that I had no sympathy or even empathy for this dear woman.  I had only recently learned to drive myself and had not even attempted my driver's test. But I was plenty upset that she was still driving on public roads and was certain even I could do better than she was doing. I became rather loud and proud about how much better I could do behind the wheel.  

The day of that most frightening ride we had been asked by the conference speaker as part of a prayer, to think of something in our lives that we wanted to commit to God, to see his hand at work in that area of our lives.  Still in recovery from the morning ride I was thinking about my own obviously superior driving skills, so I chose to commit that to the Lord.

The next morning it was our turn to take our car to the conference.  Dell was tired so our lady friend offered to drive since I didn't have my license yet.  Frantically I offered to drive anyway for practise.  Dell agreed. No way was I going to risk my life again on the last day of the otherwise most inspiring and practical conference I had ever attended.  So I drove and drove quite well, if I do say so.  Unfortunately by the time we arrived at the conference grounds parking lot I was actually getting a bit cocky and full of myself about how well I had driven.  I rounded the corner into the lot with glee, not slowing down as I should have.  Suddenly the car lurched and there was a terrible bang followed by the sound of crunching metal.  Yup, as I whipped around the corner I hit the front bumper of an all ready parked car and crumpled it completely.  It was left barely hanging onto the car.  Our bumper too had sustained a fair amount of damage.  I burst into tears from the shock followed instantly by complete humiliation.  The lady we rode with was the worst driver I had ever seen but it was myself who had an accident. What to do.......

There were a couple of thousand people at the conference so I had no way of knowing who the car belonged to. All I could do was write down the license plate number and deliver it to one of the ushers inside the conference hall.  At the next break the number was displayed on the screen with the message that the owner of this car needed to come to the office of the building right away.  We were there waiting for him and I had the torturous privilege of telling the man what I had done to his car.  As I stood there crying I told him I felt betrayed by God because during the previous day's prayer of committment I had committed my driving to Him.  I finished my confession of what I had done to the man's car and he looked at me with the wierdest expression on his face. I waited for him to get upset with me, to demand the necessary insurance information, or to report me to the police for the damage. But he just stood there for a minute. Then he told me that he had just purchased the car recently and that it was new and he was very proud of it. But not long ago someone had hit it and damaged it. He had been furious with the person.  Not long after that it sustained more damage in another accident.  Once again the man had been furious with the perpetrator, and after its most recent repairs he had been bragging to anyone who would listen about what a superior driver he himself was in a land full if incompetent idiots.  During that same time of prayer of committment he had committed that car to the Lord to keep it safe from all the other idiot drivers.  God had tested this man about his prideful attitude just as he had tested me about my own cocky attitude toward my supposed driving skills.  We looked at each other and we both started laughing at how God was determined to teach us to give up our pride and be more humble.  He didn't pursue the matter of damages, just thanked me for being honest enough to seek him out and admit what I had done.  I thanked him for being so forgiving, we both thanked God for showing us that he means business when he answers our prayers, and we each continued about our day.  

As I drove home that evening I was aware of a big change of attitude. Instead of being arrogant toward our retired missionary friend and assuming she was too stupid to know she shouldn't drive, the Lord had shown me that anyone can have an accident, even a young woman like I was at the time.  I realized he could protect my friend and all those around her until such time as she understood it wasn't safe to be behind the wheel.  (She drove for another 8 years or more, and other than putting herself in the ditch a couple of times, she had no accidents that involved other cars or people!)  He showed me that he takes our prayers seriously and when we commit something to him he may just test the strength and honesty of that committment.  I never saw nor heard again from the fellow whose car I hit, but we both had a good learning experience from our heavenly Father!

And it has stayed with me for the past 30 


chris e. said...

What constitutes the line between having confidence and sliding into cockiness? I always think (possibly quite erroneously) that God would like us to have some confidence in our own ability, and not constantly be wailing that things are beyond us. This is a topic i'd really like to have an accurate understanding of.

Susan said...

I think the simple explanation for myself is that it seems God wants me to be mostly confident in his ability to help me do what I need to do, as opposed to confidence only in my own ability. The difference is a bit subtle sometimes, but I think that may be at the heart of it. If I am dead to myself and alive only in Christ, then the smallest accompishment is really his and not my own. Knowing I can accomplish nothing without his grace keeps me from crossing the line between confidence and least that is my hope!

chris e. said...

Thanks. That makes sense.