We'd been on the road nearly five hours. It was a beautiful night but we were tired and anxious to make it home before 11:00 p.m. After all, I had to preach in the morning. The weekend had been miserably chilly and wet. It was a lonely desert road, the kind where the speed limit is merely a suggestion. I'd set the cruise control on 79 hours before.
As we neared civilization the speed limit changed for no apparent reason. An uncharacteristic thought entered my head. "Slow down." Usually it's just my guilty conscience and I treat it as a reminder to look carefully for lurking highway patrol cars. This time, however, it seemed more like a prompting than a warning. I stewed on it for a moment, doubting that a cop was nearby. Maybe I should slow down, at least a little. I began to coast downward.
Suddenly, I found myself crashing into standing water. As is common in our state, water was on the road even after the rain had passed. I hit it like a load of bricks, nearly losing control of the van. We bounced to the right like a ball off a tennis racket. I hung onto the wheel and we nearly overturned as I veered back left across the road. I turned back to the right and we found ourselves back in our own lane. As soon as it began, it was over and I was cruising again.
My legs went faint. I caught my breath. I looked at my wife and she at me. I breathed a prayer of thanksgiving, wondering how close we had come to death. I thought about the two cars facing me on this otherwise empty road. It's a good thing they were already past when I veered into their lane.
Once I got home, I mused about our near accident. My first reaction was one of guilt. I should have slowed down more. I should have responded more quickly to the prompting, rather than to question it at first. I might have gotten ourselves or others killed.
Why is it that I am so quick to criticize myself? A more sane reaction would have been to be grateful that God had prompted me, to be thankful that I had slowed down, to have thoughts of praise and thanksgiving for God's protection. After all, I had slowed down -- probably enough to ensure that the opposing two cars were safely behind me rather than in front of me when I veered into their lane.
I imagined God saying to me, "Son, won't you relax a little? There's no need to feel guilty. I was proud of you tonight. I prompted you to slow down, and you did. You did good! Quit being so hard on yourself. Give up the self criticism and relax in my grace. "
As I write this, I'm reminded of a cheesy little song (there's that self criticism again) I wrote many years ago.
I can see you watchin' me
Standin' there and watchin' me
And I'm tryin' so hard to make you love me.
I'm afraid to stop and listen
But finally you speak to me
With eyes filled with grace you are saying,
"I love you my son
And I am proud of you
Slow down, you don't have to run,
'Cause there's nothing you can do,
For I already love you."
"Slow down." Hmmm. Guess I've heard that twice now. 'Bout time I paid attention....