Two weeks ago, I headed out into the dark and the rain for an evening meeting at my church. This is strange behaviour for me. The driving part that is. I almost never drive and I don’t really know what compelled me to drive that night.
Just as I neared the church I saw a streak of metal out of the corner of my eye, felt the jarring impact of a collision and heard the unmistakeable boom and crunch of metal on metal. Within seconds the car was filled with the fine powder of the airbag and the smell of scorched metal.
I felt a sense of peace in that moment. Here I was, alive, alert, still breathing, no noticeable pain.
I managed to steer the car off of the busy four lane road and onto a quiet side street. I sat there in the car for a moment, just breathing and thankful to be alive.
And then the sinking remembrance that I am pregnant arrived. I felt like a mother for the first time that night. The baby. How is my baby? Passersby had gathered around the car by then and I stumbled out of the car onto the sidewalk. One young woman was particularly calm and helpful. “Your baby was in the safest possible place,” she reassured me. Turns out she was an off duty paramedic who happened to witness the accident.
Moments later my friend Mike from church was beside me. It was such a relief to see a familiar face. Mike lived in Israel/Palestine for many years, and he has mastered the art of staying calm in difficult situations. He is just the person you want to have by your side in a crisis. Mike called 911 and my husband Steve, and he never left my side. It turns out he had the wrong date for his meeting and wasn’t supposed to be at church that night at all.
Standing there, shivering on the the sidewalk, I finally noticed the other car, which had come to a stop on the front lawn of the house at the corner. The other driver too had left her car and looked shaken, but healthy. I breathed a sigh of relief. Neither car could be described as healthy. Both were scrunched and contorted into unnatural positions.
The memory of what had happened came back to me in pieces.
I had been driving straight, and somehow the other driver, who had been stopped at a stop sign, didn’t see me and chose that moment to accelerate, hitting the car I was driving right in front of my door. I felt relieved knowing the accident wasn’t my fault, but I also felt humbled; it’s so easy to make big mistakes.
By then the on call paramedics had appeared, and who should step out of the ambulance but another friend from church! He looked about as surprised to see me as I was to see him. I was grateful for his medical knowledge and for the warm blanket he wrapped around my shoulders.
Soon Steve rode up on his bike and my pastor Carrie came hurrying out of the church, both bringing hugs and words of reassurance. By the time the police appeared I was surrounded by the warm embrace of my community.
On that wet strip of sidewalk that night, God seemed right there with me as well.
Sometimes terrible stuff happens. And yes, I know, as far as terrible stuff, the situation I just described actually ranks pretty low: no one was hurt. But sometimes it is often in these awful moments, the times we hope we never have to live through again, that God’s presence is made very real, or that God’s seeming absence is felt most acutely.
The other driver called me this week just to make sure I was ok. Somehow, amazingly (miraculously?) I am doing great. No whiplash. Not too much lingering fear. The baby is kicking away as strong as ever. The other driver is a little sore, but overall doing really well. I can’t understand why we were so supported and protected that night. I know full well that car accidents sometimes take a much more tragic turn. I am thankful.