Had others done for me what I was about to do?
I was out of options. By the time I realized that I should have changed lanes, the cars behind me had already begun to moving to the left. No one would let me in. But the road hazard remained, growing ever clearer as I approached: it appeared to be a large, plastic container – the casualty of an overloaded gardening truck?—rolling first one way, then another in the center of my lane. If I didn’t want to hit it, I would have to move onto the road’s shoulder.
There was just enough room for me to ease to the right, barely missing the planter, onto the narrow shoulder that abutted a grassy field. While I breathed a prayer of relief, I pondered what to do. I had missed hitting the planter, which continued to roll around in the road. It was literally an accident waiting to happen, and by the grace of God, it hadn’t happened to me.
But was this my problem? If I had avoided the planter, surely others would, too. I needed to get home. My husband and children were waiting for the food I had bought. Besides, weren’t there people–government workers–whose job it was to remove debris from the highway?
Normally, this planter would not even be debris: it was something valuable that ordinary people could use. Wasn’t it stealing to remove something useful from the highway, even if it was a road hazard? That planter looked pretty large, over a foot in diameter. Surely someone would want it. But its original owner was long gone, and may not have even missed it. However, my friend Patricia, who planted a container garden every year, would be delighted to have another planter, especially one this size. Probably I would see her tomorrow at Bible study. Would the planter still be on the road if I doubled back to get it?
Slowly, I looked around, then pulled cautiously forward, picking up speed as I got back on the road. Yet, I worried as I glanced in the rearview mirror. Other drivers were slowing down as I had, trying to merge into the left lane to avoid hitting the planter. This was clearly a problem that was not going to go away on its own. I wouldn’t be that late getting home if I turned around to get it.
This was crazy! Did God really want me to do this? I immediately started praying, while I made my plans. Okay. In less than a mile, I would have a chance to make a not-too-dangerous U-turn. But once I was headed back, there would be no more easy opportunities for me to get turned around again. I would have to circle through the outlet mall, then make a left-turn at the light. That was an awful lot of driving to do just on a whim.
“Lord,” I prayed out loud, as I drove through the parking lot, “If this is really what You want me to do, please clear the road for me. You know I’m afraid, and this would be a really stupid way to die. Please, clear the road!”
Before I knew it, I was barreling down, once more, on the errant planter, which was still rolling lazily in my lane. Slowing down, I avoided it for the second time, signaled, then pulled up on the shoulder, turning on my hazard lights.
Oh, no! A couple of huge eighteen-wheelers, along with several other vehicles, were coming up fast. While I strongly urged God to protect me from them and save my life, I watched as they changed lanes and blew past me. Whew! And the road was clear now. It wouldn’t be for long.
Resolved, I jumped from the car and slammed the door, locking it electronically with my keys. It was time to move. I should be running to grab that planter. Yep, I should hurry now!
It was harder than I thought when I realized I had left the engine running! In the middle of a very busy highway! But I had locked the doors. This seemed like a good idea at the time: I had the keys that would unlock the car on a lanyard around my neck. With the engine running, and the keys in my hand, I could electronically pop open first the trunk, then the driver’s side door, giving me just enough time to jump into the car and drive away before traffic got heavy again. Anyway, the highway was clear. But the words one of my children had quoted to me earlier flooded my mind: It only takes 30 seconds for a thief to throw a rock through the window and drive away with a car whose engine has been left on. But in the middle of the road? I was sure I hadn’t seen anyone on foot in the area.
I did not have time for this. I would have to trust God.
Running down the road, I chanted over and over, “God, You’ve got to help me! You’ve really got to help me!” I know I must have looked a sight in my long red dress and black boots as I hurried back to grab that planter. In another few seconds, it was mine, and I was running back to the car.
A minute later, the planter was in the trunk. If I hurried, I could slip into the front seat and slam the door before the red car behind me blew by. Just in time, I was back in my seat, the red car passed me, and other cars were appearing again on the road. God had opened up exactly the window of time I needed in order to do what I had initially labeled a fool’s errand.
Yes! I had done it! God had helped me, andI had–for the very first time in my life– removed a road hazard from a highway that was usually extremely busy. Breathing hard, I praised God as I got back on the highway and headed home.
Driving home, I realized most of the people driving down the highway later that day would never know what I had done for them. By removing the planter from the road, I had eliminated a hazard that they would now not have to deal with. I had not only removed an inconvenience, I might have even saved some lives. At least, I liked to think so. I deserved their thanks! But, because no one had known what I had done for them, they would never be able to thank me.
Suddenly, I couldn’t help wondering how many problems God had been quietly removing from my life: problems I would never see, using people I could never thank. On the days that had seemed most routine, even boring –often days in which I had entertained ingratitude and complaints—God had been removing problems and creating peace and safety for me.
From now on, I resolved, I would be grateful, knowing that even when I didn’t see it, God was at work in my life.
March 27, 2010
(actual event: March 26, 2010, thirty minutes before lunch. Or, “The reason your lunch was delivered late . . . .”)