Yesterday we drove home after a really great visit to California. The ride was enjoyable. Our children are getting old enough so that driving long distances isn’t a huge burden, and we listen to audio books, or give them paper and pencil. They do fine. (Bethel spent a good deal of her time helping us all make up an island, complete with birds, businesses, and tropical narwhals.)
About 250 miles from home, I woke up to the bumps that meant Lee was moving to the side of the road, and his saying that the engine had blown. Our van has over 200,000 miles, so this isn’t a huge surprise, but it does mean for a longer trip home. As Lee sighed and reached for the door handle, we noticed a tow truck driving up behind and then beside us. “Looks like you have trouble,” the old guy said with a sweet smile, so cheerful and sudden that I thought he must have been an angel.
Lee drove for a bit with the tow truck guy to get a cell phone signal, and I comforted the children. I was feeling great, trusting God. “Look at how God sent that tow truck man before daddy could even get out and look at the car!”
Bethel asked to come sit on my lap. “I’ve never broken down before!” she said. “I don’t like breaking down. What are we going to do?”
I cheerfully repeated how wonderful it was that God provided what we needed at that moment, and how that encourages us to trust him with the future things. Then I told them as best as I could what we would do next and how we would get home. Bethel listened, but truthfully, she was still distressed, even after we drove into town with the cheerful tow truck angel, and found a play place while Lee went to find a way home.
Several hours later, our kind pastor drove out with a truck that could haul our van home and carry our whole family. We started off around eleven, and the children quickly went back to sleep. We quickly discovered that the van and the truck became unstable above 50 mph (speed limit on this stretch of road was 80). It took several times of having the truck and van start to fishtail, slightly at first, and building in intensity until we thought we would surely roll both vehicles. The men stayed calm and eventually the fishtailing slowed and the truck was drivable again. In the back seat, with the children sleeping peacefully, I was wide awake and white knuckled, gripping the hand rest in a feeble attempt to stabilize the sideways motion I was feeling.
“Look at how God provides! We don’t have to know the future to trust him. The Lord our God is with us, wherever we go, and he will uphold us with his hands.” My words given earlier came back to me. I was reminded of my slight impatience that my dear child was still distressed after hearing these amazing truths. I reminded myself of God’s love and care, but the tension and slight nausea did not go away. I did not really want to be sanctified by a car accident. I was reminded of other times when I had told the children HOW to cast our cares on God: pray, remind ourselves that God is in control, and then simply start thinking of something else. I did that. I think I was trusting God, but still I gripped the arm rest.
The truck continued to drive on the hilly road. Large trucks speeded past us. Nobody spoke, and I figured at last that I would try to sleep. Choosing to sleep is a good way of trusting the Lord. But then as the truck would ever so slightly get past the threshold of a safe speed on a downward hill, I would be awakened by the gentle rocking back and forth of the truck. I tensed up, and then breathed again as the truck slowed and drove straight once more. The trip was long, and I did not sleep.
Finally home, and getting some hours of sleep, I was able to think straight. I was reminded at how often God helps me hear my lectures in a fresh light when I try them out on my own circumstances. In this case, the words were true and right, but I had been somewhat insensitive to their emotional response to something quite scary for a child. Is it possible to feel nauseated with fear and still trust God? I hadn’t really considered this at all as I lectured my children. I hadn’t considered that the feelings of fear could be present even while they were trusting God, that after they were safely home, their trust would grow even more as they remembered how God had provided.
Later as a good friend talked about the emotions she felt at a new direction in their family schedule, I told her cheerfully that I would pray for her. She agreed, and wisely mentioned that obedience doesn’t always “feel” right or peaceful, but we still have to go forward and trust. I remembered the fear I had felt hours earlier while repeating the true words to myself, and I gained a new understanding of my friend’s feelings. Again, I felt thankful for God-given insight. God is a gentle teacher; may I be gentle and compassionate teacher to my children as well.