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.
When the Aerostar died, 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. 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. When we bought the T-bird, that practice resumed. My children accepted flashing red 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.
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 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 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.
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.
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 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 in need of His help? How was I able to hear His voice so loudly that I avoided catastrophe in my first and only blowout?
Maybe the answer is found in John 10:27.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”
Boy, you can say that again. When you actually DO hear God’s voice, it’s a little hard to ignore. You don’t question it. You don’t mistake it. You simply obey.
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 my walk with God changed that day. He really IS here, He is real, and He loves even the silly, impractical ones who speed on freeways. I know many people are still on the fence about my God, and I respect you and love you. But what if you’re wrong?
See, nothing happens to me if I’m wrong. If I’m wrong, we all end up at your party. But what if I’m right and you’re wrong?
What. If. I’m. Right?