Many of us speak of our first car with fondness. I am foremost among them, but not for the reasons you’d think.
It was the day after Christmas, 2002. I was driving my Dodge Intrepid down Interstate 10 from Luke Air Force Base in Phoenix, where I was stationed, to visit my grandfather in Tucson. A nap attack arrived – I swear it’s always around 1:35pm – and I figured I could fight the fatigue and keep driving. Older and wiser now, I advise thus: pull over and nap. It only takes twenty minutes to reset your body.
That day, somewhere north of Casa Grande, I nodded off. The freeway curved to the right; I did not. The rumble strips woke me up and I swerved hard right to correct – too hard. The back end of my Intrepid swung out left and took the rest with it. I remember only skidding into the median like a really loud, really fast, really big bike accident multiplied by ten. It remains the most terrifying 1.5-second memory of my life.
The next thing I remember was lying face up, outside my car, blood streaming down my face as I stared up at the sky, scared, wondering what had happened.
By God’s grace, the driver behind me that day was a fellow airman, a sergeant from our Security Forces outfit. He was the one who pulled me, unconscious, from my car.
Later, from him through my supervisor, I heard what happened. My car rolled through the median seven or eight times at 75 MPH, coming to rest inverted in the oncoming lane of the freeway, and a semi trailer missed me by mere feet. I was airlifted to Maricopa County Hospital.
Notice the cabin is deformed right where the driver’s head goes.
Yep. I was dumb.
But thankfully, not dumb enough to forgo my seatbelt.
Here’s the wild thing: I was discharged the same day and driven back to base with only a very mild concussion. I was back at dorm, washing blood out of my hair, that very evening. Not even whiplash the next day. Sixteen years later, a tiny chunk out of my nose is the only evidence my body bears of the accident.
I don’t know about Biblical support for the idea of guardian angels, but I do know this: God answers prayer. We just need to expand our definition of answers. We don’t often think of the invention of the seatbelt, or the rigorous construction and testing of our cars, as an answer to millions of prayers for a “hedge of protection” around loved ones. But I’d make the argument.
It’s also worth noting that seatbelts are available to anyone, and some of us are not taking advantage. How many divine helping hands are offered in this world and not taken? How much existing wisdom (like “don’t drive sleepy”) could keep tragedy at bay in the first place? It makes you wonder just how much room we have to criticize God for suffering. And how much worse could it actually be?
I stand in gratitude to my first car, to the quick action of the sergeant who pulled me out (I know he received an Air Force award for it, but I’ve not been able to find him since), and mostly to God.
“He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth.” Daniel 6:27