Pamela read and narrated her books while I worked on Beth Moore Bible study. The orthodontist interrupted us for a few minutes, but we doggedly got back on track. My parents called from their RV in Florida, so I talked long enough to be polite. As soon as I hung up, we tackled our work again: Pamela was reading a chapter from The World of Columbus and Sons while I read Beth Moore's suggestion that, as adopted children of God's royal family, we represent His land just as the Queen of England represents her land when visiting our country.
The phone rang again, and I fussed, "Not another phone call!" I never get three phone calls in succession, and I came close to ignoring it! I got up one more time and heard the words that you never want to hear, "Tammy, don't worry but . . ."
Steve was calling from a concrete barrier in the median of I-40 watching traffic zoom around his wrecked car blocking two lanes of traffic. He didn't even know the nearest exit much less the state. "I'm okay! I'm walking, but the beemer is gone. I just totaled it. I think I'm in Tennessee . . ." It turned out he was in North Carolina!
I could hear the passing cars through the phone and, at one point, a woman asked if he needed help! He asked me to pray for him because he was afraid someone would plow into him before the police arrived. Fortunately, the ensuing traffic jam took care of that problem.
Fearing that Pamela might become unglued if she figured out the truth, I returned to what we were doing and acted like nothing happened. She asked who called and, in a phony calm voice, I told her that her dad called to tell me how he was doing (close enough to the truth to avoid lying). Because of RDI, Pamela can read moods better and, if she had detected my fear, she would have flipped out. Navy training kicked in, so we went back to work.
As soon as I got her going on her reading, I typed a Facebook note at 11:49, thanking everyone for praying, "PRAISING GOD FOR ALL WHO PRAYED FOR SAFETY!!!!!!!!!!!!!! STEVE JUST TOTALLED THE CAR AND HE IS OKAY. THAT IS ALL I KNOW. KEEP HIM IN YOUR PRAYERS FACEBOOK FRIENDS." For the next hour, people from all over the world--his friends, my friends, mutual friends--chimed in with their gratitude and prayers!
Since I was behind in my Bible study, I got back to page 97, which--I am not kidding you--stated:
Not only are you royalty but you also have been placed in your sphere of influence, regardless of the size you perceive it to be, 'for such a time as this.' Ecclesiastes 3:2 tells us there is 'a time to be born and a time to die.' God cut out those exact perimeters for you and me on the kingdom calendar so that we would be positioned on earth right now. Likewise, Acts 17:26 tells us unflinchingly that God 'determined the times set for [us] and the exact places that [we] should live.' You see, even your current location is part of the set-up for your kingdom destiny. As we learned in one of our earliest verses on providence in this series, in Christ 'we were also chose, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works everything in conformity with the purpose of His will' (Ephesians 1:11). These realizations should be stunning and marvelous to us, exploding our lives with significance.
Yeah, the timing was stunning all right . . . ten minutes after I learn about Steve's brush with death!!!!!!
For the past two weeks, our town of 4,000 people has seen one person after another die: a fifth grader from swine flu, a teacher from an aneurysm, a 10th grader from accidental drowning, a reporter (who wrote stories about my brother's reenlistment and my mom's quilt group before he moved last year) from a car accident Saturday night. Steve could have been the next! At the last minute, he decided to drive the beemer instead of Red (the Kia). Five minutes before the accident, he started to feel nervous about the road conditions: he grabbed the wheel firmly with both hands and kept his eyes peeled. The car slid on what he thinks was a patch of oil, side-swiped a truck hauling a bunch of cars, rotated ninety-degrees before plowing into the concrete barrier in the median, head-on. As it spun and bashed into the barrier several times, two things spun in his head: "Dear God, don't let it be today and don't let anyone else get hurt."
Miraculously, no other car was involved in the accident, and the truck driver could not find a single dent on his rig. Steve was shaky, stiff, and sore with a minor burn on one hand from the airbag. The state troopers and emergency teams were efficient in cleaning up the mess!
I called my closest friend, who totaled her car last year. She said that she was so worthless after her wreck that she could not have driven a half hour to get home, much less five hours. Her description convinced me to take no lip from Steve, who has been known to drive three hours with a high fever caused by the measles, telling me that it was nothing. I told Pamela that Dad missed us and we were going to visit him in North Carolina (which was another half-baked truth). Luckily, she was so delighted by the impromptu trip that she bought my excuse without question. I picked up David, asked for more prayers from my friends on Facebook, email lists, and Twitter, and drove off.
The roads were nasty most of the way: slick with plenty of rain and later fog. Every stalled car, every tow truck, every cross on the side of the road came alive as I thought about what happened to Steve. Knowing about all those people praying for us calmed me.
On the five-hour trip, I reflected upon Oswald Chamber's book If You Will Ask, which busy days caused me to put down after the first chapter. Oswald wrote, "Only when a man flounders beyond any grip of himself and cannot understand things does he really pray." Steve and I sure experienced that kind of helplessness!
Prayer to Him is not a way to get things from God, but so that we may get to know God. Prayer is not to be used as the privilege of a spoiled child seeking ideal conditions to indulge his spiritual propensities; the purpose of prayer is to reveal the presence of God, equally present at all times and in every condition. . . It is not so true that 'Prayer changes things' as that prayer changes us.
Because of Pamela, I had to stay calm: I had two choices: a very bad situation or a worse situation compounded by autistic meltdown! As Oswald pointed out, "The secret of Christian quietness is not indifference, but the knowledge that God is my Father, He loves me, I shall never think of anything He will forget, and worry becomes an impossibility." The only way I could stay calm was through the eternal perspective. As my pastor pointed out in his sermon last Sunday, we can live life in the light of the Gospel, regardless of chaotic chapters in our lives, because we know the end of the story (Isaiah 65:17). He also observed at our Wednesday night Bible study that prayer is the inverse of anxiety:
It means the more you pray, the less anxious you feel. Likewise, the less you pray, the more anxious you feel. Do I hear an amen?
That is what I experienced on Monday through prayer: hearing the whisper from God to pray for Steve's safety and ask others to pray before he crashed . . . to answer the phone, however inconvenient it was . . . to continue the Bible study and receive consolation while he was still in danger . . . to share the circumstances with those who pray so that they too could spend time with God . . . to feel at peace because God wants what is best for my family . . . to rejoice with our friends when I shared news of his safety. The first chapter of Oswald's book came alive before our eyes last Monday.
"As long as we are self-sufficient and complacent, we don't need to ask God for anything; we don't want Him. It is only when we know we are powerless that we are prepared to listen to Jesus Christ." Oswald Chambers
P.S. Once we hooked up with Steve later that day, Pamela's curiosity ignited when she saw him without the car. She asked, "Where is the gray car?" Because he very quietly explained that it crashed and because she could see with her own eyes that her Daddy was safe, Pamela took the news with great calmness. That surprised me. Two days later, she cried when she realized he had left some beloved CDs in the car along with the keys. The tears were short lived because he promised to call the towing company to see if they could mail them to us, which means she will start nagging us in about a week . . .