As I am sitting here tonight writing this post, tomorrow will be the final race for one of Nascar racing’s most popular race car drivers. I haven’t really followed racing for a number of years now. I used to be a big race fan. I lost my first driver in a helicopter crash in 1993. Then my second driver, who wore a big red “T” on his chest, had to retire from racing in the late nineties due to a number of concussions. The love of the sport sort of dimmed a bit but there was still the driver of that number three car who earned my loyalty. After his death on the track in 2001, I basically stopped watching and lost interest. Although the media hype around his son’s retirement has sparked a memory that still reminds me that I am a very blessed girl, and my life has a purpose that God is still working out.
I have a group of friends that I call my “Jazzercise” buddies. That, in itself, would lead you to believe that I participate in that particular form of exercise. Well, I used to, but have not for quite a few years now. Although, we are no longer sweating and stepping to the music together, we have remained friends and we attempt to get together as frequently as possible. Actually, tonight was one of those times, and due to the distance constraints, I didn’t have a ride to get there; so I missed this one. I really hate that because this one was a birthday bash. There will be others though.
In the past, each year during the holidays, the Jazzercise gang would try madly to figure out a good day and time that we could all get together to celebrate. With the passing of time and the addition of husbands and children, scheduling our get togethers became a massive struggle. Finally we decided to wait until the week after Christmas. That seems to work for everyone.
One of the crew graciously offers her home each year. It is sort of centrally located for all of us. The gathering after the Christmas of 2014 ended up being quite an adventure for me. We had food and fun and caught up on what was going on in each other’s lives. At the end of the evening, I was the next-to-last to leave the party. It was a dark, windy, rainy night. My friend lives in a subdivision on the side of a mountain. (Well, maybe not, but it sure seems that way to me anyhow!) It is quite steep, with lots of trees and hardly any light! Oh my goodness, it sure is dark on that steep, winding hill. It was, technically, the kind of night with the limited vision I had at that time that I probably should have not been driving.
But, driving I was! And what I was driving was a red Nissan Versa. To say it was a very light car is an understatement! It was always a challenge to hold that little bug on the road when it was raining. Boy, oh, boy, this night would prove to be no different! So, I took my leave and backed down the driveway onto the road. Then, in the rain and wind, driving through the puddles, piles of leaves and mud, I started to make my way down the steep, curvy hillside.
OK, you ask, “So how is this little story connected in any size, shape or form to Nascar?” Just stay with me here.
I was not driving fast, I am a fairly intelligent human with a pretty good sense of self-preservation; but on the first sharp curve, I clipped the curb. I was on the upper side of the road, away from the ravine side. The second I hit the curb, I said (out loud), “Oh no, this is bad.” I tried to get control of the car, but only ended up with the two passenger side tires over the curb and into the mud. I tried to steer back onto the road at that point. That was pretty much the end of any control I had over the vehicle. Instead of steering back onto the road, the front tire made it back on the blacktop and the car did this crazy, sharp left turn headed straight for the opposite curb…and the ravine.
I smacked the curb head on and jumped it. I was over the curb and headed down, veerrry steeply down! I seemed to be driving through the trees, or so I thought. I was braking and steering as hard as I could. (Well, let me rephrase that, “I was braking and thought I was steering as hard as I could!”) Stuff from all the way in the back of the car was flying to the front of the car and smacking into the windshield and conking me on the head. At one point, I thought that I did seem to be going around the trees; so I thought if I braked hard enough, I would eventually just come to a stop. There is a such a massive sense of disillusion when you are in a no-win situation.
I thought I had it all under control. Then I saw it. There was a huge tree and it was coming right at me! (That’s how I saw it anyhow.) I knew, with a simple sense of peace, that this was going to be it. This would be the end of the road. At the speed I was going, that big ole tree would eat my little red bug for a midnight snack. I braked even harder, but it did not have any effect. The tree kept coming. Finally, I made the decision that if this was it, I was OK with it. You know, it is truly, insanely crazy the amount of information that can go through your brain in a very few seconds. I can totally relate when someone says, “My life flashed before my eyes.”
Oddly, there was not a lot of sound on my part during this off road challenge…a lot of heavy breathing and grunting possibly, but not so much talking. So, in silent concentration, I was doing all I could do to keep the little red car in one, basic, piece. But…the tree kept getting closer and closer with each passing second. Finally, I braced for impact. Wouldn’t you just like to think at a time like this, that the thought running through your mind (that might possibly be the last thought to go through your mind,) would be something deep, or poetic or, at least, spiritual…heck, for me especially spiritual? Oh no. Right before impact, out of my mouth (not just in my mind) came, “OK Dale, I’m coming to join you.” Then, impact!
Well, let’s just address the comment before we address the impact. Where that came from, at that particular moment, I have no idea. As I said, I’d stopped keeping up with Nascar years before. But somehow, with all of the “data dump” that went through my mind during my trek down the hillside in those few seconds from the first curb bump to the final tree taste, that “life passing before my eyes” thing must have stopped at Daytona, 2001. That’s all I can think.
After impact, I just sat there, dazed for a moment. I was surrounded in the front seat by all of the stuff that had been in the back of the car. My death grip on the steering wheel started to loosen slightly I saw the tree that was in very intimate contact with the front, of my car. Then the thought hit me that the air bag did not deploy. I moved pretty quickly then. I opened the door and jumped out, fearing that it might deploy at any given second. The first jump out was a bit painful for the right ankle. I was standing there trying to grasp what had just happened and wondering how in the world I was standing there, and not wrapped around that quite massive tree. The next thought was how I was going to climb back up out of this mess. I closed the door and stepped down to the front of the car. What I saw still amazes me every time I tell this story.
There, underneath the front of the car, all the way across, spanning from the driver’s side to the passenger’s side, wedged in front of both tires, was a tree, probably about ten inches in circumference. I just stood there in the dark, in leaves up past my ankles, in the mud, in the rain, shaking my head. I did say something then! I said, “OK God, I get it. I know You are not finished with me yet.”
Essentially, the fallen tree had taken the biggest brunt of the impact…and that “me steering” thing! I laugh! The tree was definitely steering! I ended up with a few bumps and bruises, a sprained ankle and a sore shoulder from seat belt trauma. I have no doubt in my mind that my life was spared that night. Without the fallen tree finally slowing me down and taking the most of the impact, my little red car would have been destroyed. Plus, just a few feet to the right and I would have been on a trek to the bottom of the ravine, pretty far to the bottom. This was the last tree that would have been able to stop me.
I have to say, this is not the first tree that God has used to save my life though. There was another tree that He allowed His Son to die on to save my eternal life. God sent His Son on a life saving mission, using a tree, for the whole world. I’d say that was a pretty big tree…if not in stature, at least in effect. It changed the course of history. He died on that tree and after three days, He arose again to bring salvation to the world. The whole time I had that tree in my sight, I kept thinking that it was coming at me; when in reality, it wasn’t moving. I was going toward the tree. That’s how I see that it is with Jesus, He is there, stationary and solid…not going anywhere, just waiting for us. That purpose, that I mentioned earlier, is to continue to tell others that Jesus loves you and He gave His very life to prove it.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” ~ John 3:16