ROAD FEAR

Jesus looked hard at them and said, “No chance at all if you think you can pull it off yourself. Every chance in the world if you trust God to do it.”
Matthew 19:26. (The Msg)

The red light changes to green. The two cars in front of us, a large blue sedan and a compact car, slowly accelerate. My wife Suzanne follows nudging our Honda forward. 15 miles of two-lane road will complete our six-hour drive, and we are ready to be home. As we leave the Byhalia, Mississippi town limits heading north, the blue sedan swerves slightly and its right wheels exit the paved surface onto the gravel shoulder. The car swerves back left crossing the centerline and then settles back into the proper lane.

“Probably texting,” I say to Suzanne.

“Wish folks wouldn’t do that,” she replies.

The blue car swerves right again, then abruptly swerves back across the centerline to the shoulder on the left side of the road. It now has our full attention. The driver slowly crosses back to the appropriate lane as the compact car in front of us starts to slow down.

“Looks more like the driver has been drinking,” I say with conviction.

“I agree, and I’m scared he is going to hit someone head on. What can we do?” Suzanne asks in a raised voice. I can see the tension in her hands as she increases grip pressure on the steering wheel.

We approach a red light at a major highway, and the blue sedan comes to a stop. The small car exits right into a gas station.

“Pull up close so I can read his license plate number,” I say as I pull out my cellphone.

The light turns green, and the blue sedan takes off in a start, accelerating rapidly. The car again swerves from one side of the road to the other.

“Try to stay with him.”

“OK, but I am not going to get too close! Mike, he’s going to kill somebody!”

“Let’s pray that that doesn’t happen.” And we do.

I dial Collierville Police, and they answer immediately. As I am explaining the situation and providing the license number, the officer says she is contacting the Mississippi Sheriff’s Office and State Police. About then, the sedan swerves left into the southbound lane as we start up a small rise…we cannot see over the rise and Suzanne screams. We top the hill and a line of cars in the southbound lane are stopped at an intersection as the first car in line has his left hand turn signal blinking. At the last moment, the blue sedan corrects back into our lane and narrowly misses the line of cars. He continues off the right side of the road nearly crashing into the drainage ditch—something I am now praying for, a single car crash. He recovers to the northbound lane. I continue a running commentary to the police.

“The Mississippi Sheriff’s office is responding, and we have officers heading to the state line if he makes it to our border. Please stay on the line and continue with the details,” the officer instructs.

“Wilco,” I respond.

As we top the next small hill, I see a line of vehicles in the southbound lane led by a large white SUV. The sedan swerves back into the southbound lane.

I scream into the phone, “He’s gonna hit the SUV!” as Suzanne brakes to get separation from the impending crash.

The SUV edges right off the road and the blue sedan races by. The sedan hits the front left side of the following red truck, skids back right, runs over a small embankment and comes to rest in a ditch. The damaged truck with a large trailer in tow careens left in front of us and comes to rest in the same ditch.

The SUV stops. A man exits and heads for the crashed truck.

“Continue up to the car,” I tell Suzanne and the cop on the phone. “The driver of the truck appears okay and is opening his door. But, please send an ambulance.”

As Suzanne stops behind the car, I exit rapidly…and not in a good mood. Fact is, as I peer through the back window of the sedan and see a man trying to crawl across to the passenger side, my fighter pilot Type A personality starts to build. I cross to the passenger side, reach down, jerk the car door open and glare inside.

“Help me get out. My car stopped, and it’s on fire.”

“Please sit still, sir. Your car is not on fire. That is the dust from your expended air bag. Are you okay? Hurting anywhere?” I say as my anger quickly melts away.

“I feel okay, but I can’t get out,” says a feeble, scared, and confused elderly gentleman.

“Sir, you have been involved in a car accident. Please keep your seat until we make sure you have no complications, no broken bones. Can you tell me your name and where you were going?”

“Name is Frank, and I was on my way to a medical appointment. I am 73 and need to get to my doctor.”

“We will get you out and to your doctor,” I say as the policewoman on the phone says the Sherriff will be there in two minutes and an ambulance is en route.

“Frank, are you married? Do you want me to call your wife?” I say.

“Yes I am married. Will you call Grace for me?”

“Yes, Frank. Is Grace’s number in your cellphone?” He nods as he hands me his phone.

As I talk to Grace, the drivers of both vehicles approach. I explain the situation. The driver of the red truck is a paramedic so he leans in, confirms that Frank is okay physically but is suffering mentally.

The sheriff arrives. After a quick situational assessment, he and I rip the driver’s side door open and help Frank from his car. The sheriff hands me a form, asks me to fill it out and write a narrative of the accident. Once complete, Suzanne and I are cleared to leave the scene. During the next 15 minutes as we drive to the safe confines of our home, we give thanks to our Lord that no one was hurt. Then, we reflect in silence.…

Are you there—in a frightening situation where you have no control? Maybe it isn’t a material accident waiting to happen as above. Maybe it is a family member or friend that is heading down the wrong path and all you can do is helplessly watch. Or just maybe it is your own life choices that have you swerving toward a crash while others just have to stand by and watch.

In Matthew, Jesus says there is hope—all things are possible—but you must call on Him. You must humble yourself and pray while opening up to His love, grace and protection. He already has a running commentary of the specifics and is well aware of the cause; all we need to do is ask for His help. It may take a ‘crash’ to catch your attention, but when complete, the mangled door will be opened. Loving family, members of your church and concerned friends will help you rise. The road will become clear, and you will be able to join the proper lane heading toward a safe and majestic home.

Keep Smilin’,

Mike

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