The Voice

It was an ordinary day, except that it wasn't

No one else was in the car with me on the day it happened. Well, almost no one.

I feel the need... 
Speeding on the freeway isn’t new to me. If I have the need for speed, blame it on either the most popular Tom Cruise movie of the 1980s or my parents. My dad brought home a shiny red Delorean in 1983, and I fell in love with the aerodynamics, the compact, two-seat design, and the idea that it just looked fast. When I reached 16, my mom persuaded my dad to buy me a 300ZX (who does that?), and after marriage, I graduated to a Mustang GT 5.0 that I drove until children started coming along faster than billboards in Southern California. I willingly gave up the zippy sports cars (and speeding tickets), and for the next seemingly endless string of childbearing years, limped along in a Ford Aerostar full of car seats, McDonald’s fries, and steaming old bottles of dried-up milk.

The Aerostar died just in time for children who could buckle their own seatbelts and experience mortification that their mom drove a minivan, so it was time for a new car. Sensible cars were for sensible girls, and I’m not sure I can squeeze my impractical habits into the word sensible: my hair is long, I procrastinate, speed, drink too much coffee, and I’m horrible at paying bills. I relate well to Scarlett O’Hara’s breathless, “I can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think about that tomorrow.” A sensible girl would have chosen something with four doors, perhaps fuel efficiency, or at least a neutral color. Not me. We replaced the nondescript burgundy jalopy with a fiery red Thunderbird that screamed, “Hey cops! Watch this!” And they did. A lot.

With the exception of the Aerostar years, I averaged exactly one speeding ticket every 18 months—the window I had to maintain in order to attend traffic school to remove the familiar infraction from my driving record (shout-out to my State Farm agent Abir Pulskamp for continuing to insure me). When we bought the T-bird, that practice resumed. My children accepted flashing lights behind them as naturally as they did the blur of unheeded speed limit signs along the road—just a part of life. So it isn’t a surprise that I was speeding on the day it happened.

I was a harried mother of three. I’m still harried and a mother of three, but instead of rushing from one school to another or between soccer and baseball practices, I juggle writing schedules, dinners (why must these people always need to EAT?), and my Halloween businesses that require year-round attention. Now, at least, the kids are old enough to get their own food and can even make Starbucks runs for me. But during these years, it was worse because No. One. Else. Drove. Their father worked out of town, so the details and errands—such as the one I was running the day it happened—were left to me.

This is how I imagine I looked.
At about 4:45 on a warm spring afternoon, I was speeding along the highway trying to get a backseat full of trophies to my son’s end-of-the-season baseball party. I was the team mom, so the responsibility rested fully on me, and because I didn’t have the perspective then that I do now, I thought the world would stop its rotation if I walked in 10 minutes late. It wasn’t that I didn’t plan well; I just didn’t plan at all. I am what other writers call a “pantser,” which means that my writing style is one who writes “by the seat of her pants.”  I am not a planner in writing or in life. I don’t plan vacations, dinner, or schedules. I couldn’t be bothered, even, to plan my own wedding. I fly, drive, write and live by the seat of my pants, which, on this day, meant that I was running late.

With no one else in the car, I blasted the radio and was racing within ½ mile of my exit when it happened. The Voice. It was so loud that it muted every other noise. When I heard it, I felt my mortality stand at attention:

Slow down, Dana. Your children need you.

I was startled by the voice in such a way that I obeyed the command and yanked my foot off the gas so quickly my knee slammed into the steering wheel. It wasn’t a whisper, more the sound of one commanding from a place of authority—loud and clear, a voice that brooks no argument. I would imagine that a gun-pointing police officer ordering someone to “GET DOWN!” evokes the kind of authority I heard in this voice. Quickly, my eyes darted to the dashboard, where I watched the speedometer drop from 80 mph at the same pace my heart rate was increasing to 180 bpm.

75 mph… What in the world was that? My right foot hovered over the gas pedal as my car began its gradual slow-down.

70 mph… Who was that speaking? Both hands gripped the steering wheel and my eyes continued to watch my speed.

65 mph… Was that God?

I know people who’ve lived in faith far longer than I have, people who’ve known God more intimately and had a much better relationship with Him than I did at the time in my life when I was speeding and carrying on without perspective. I was sure God had much better things to do (or people to help) than talk to a person who had only a mild interest in Him.

I was wrong, and He decided to prove His love (and existence) to me right there on northbound highway 99, right before the Olive Drive exit.

Five seconds after hearing The Voice and the moment my speedometer reached 55 mph, my tire blew out. As pieces of rubber cascaded around me and I could hear my pretty red fender being torn to shreds, I used lessons taught in my high school driver’s ed class to ease the car slowly off the freeway and was able to hobble up the ramp safely into a fast food parking lot.

I’m no physicist, but I can presume that a car experiencing a blowout at 80 mph would react differently from one traveling 55. We’ve all seen rollover accidents along freeways; many of them don’t turn out well.

Why me? I don’t know, but it changed me. Why would God care about one silly, impractical girl when lifelong believers are suffering and in need of His help? I can’t be sure of that, but I recently came across this scripture that may explain it:

"If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won't he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost?” (Matthew 18:12)

Ahhh, yes, He will. I was lost, but now I am found.

I wish I could say that I never speed anymore or that the experience made me a perfect Christian. I can't say either of those things, but at least I can say that each bit of separated tire I see along the freeway and every chunk of rubber debris remind me to slow down in more ways than one. I remember The Voice as a testament to God loving all His sheep, even the ones who've gone astray.

Ya, He loves us that much.