What My Cars Teach Me

It was six years ago, going on seven.

College classes had wrapped up for Thanksgiving break. Me and two friends met outside the dorms and loaded into my tiny, red, 1991, four-door Honda Accord. We headed west toward Denver.

We were so young and insecure and slightly wild. We had summer clothes and winter coats packed side-by-side in the trunk. We were listening to the Relient K album that came out that fall…the one that sings “Forget and not slow down.”

I was in the driver’s seat.

I wasn’t slowing down.

I remember crossing the Colorado border just an hour previously. I remember the setting sun, brilliant in my eyes.

And then, I remember bending over to adjust the stereo. I remember that silver volume button turning once, twice, three times.

Gravel. A screech. A jerk of the steering wheel. And then, a roller coaster ride as the car veered into the deep, grassy median.

We were crashing.

I held on to that steering wheel with a white-knuckled grip and a fervent prayer right behind my lips.

Please, Lord. 

Please, Lord, keep us safe. Lord, please, steer for me. Lord, please keep my friends in your care. 

Lord, please.

It was one of those emergency prayers. One of those miracle prayers.

And as the prayer echoed from my very skin, we continued to spin. I was held securely, my seat belt tight over my breastbone. The car rolled once, twice, three times. I lost count.

And then, after what felt like forever, there was stillness. The car stopped. It was quiet.

I kept my eyes squeezed shut, thinking it was going to be dream. This was something that only happened to other people in those videos that they show you in driver’s ed class.

I opened my eyes and my ears. I tested out my legs and arms for pain, pried my fingers off the steering wheel. I was okay.

“Are you guys okay?” I begged my friends to answer.

They were. Their voices sounded like the sweetest of mercies.

Cars pulled off the highway around us and people spoke with panicked tones into their cell phones. The ambulance was coming with the State Patrol.

It was the only time in my life I’ve ever heard sirens that were headed straight for me.

– – – – – –

On that day, I became a believer in miracle.

On that day, my first car – that little red Honda  Accord – saved my life. It kept me and my friends safe with its secure, metal frame.

In that frame, we went from 80 miles an hour to 0 in mere seconds.

What I know from experience is that God can and does use people and circumstances and even objects to accomplish His miracles in our world today. Yes, even this broken world that seems to constantly buckle with tumult and discord.

Even here, and even in your life. Miracle is real.

Cars, like anything, can be God’s agents for these miracles. I believe that cars go with us on the journey more than any other object we own in our lives. And I think God knows our cars. I believe He might even commission them to care for us.

I took my first Little Red Honda to my first job interview, the first day I drove myself to high school, and my first day of college.

After the crash, I took a break from cars, bumming rides from friends and borrowing my parents’ vehicles too. People cared for me really well during that season, offering me grace for what had happened.

So, when  it came time to purchase my next new car – also a Red Honda – it really felt like a new chapter.

That Honda went with me on first dates, road trips, and trips to Sonic in the sticky, Midwestern summer heat. That car held me in the confusion of post-college life as I wrestled with who I was and who I wanted to be. On particularly lonely Sunday afternoons in that season, me and Red Honda would drive the dirt roads of rural Adams County, chasing the sunset and listening to Relient K sing through the stereo.

Second Red Honda accompanied me on my drive when I moved back to Colorado two summers ago. It was the most brave and crucial move of my life. And no one went with me accept my Red Honda.

Aren’t these everyday moments as beautiful as the miracles when we look back on them?

Could it be, friends, that they are one and the same?

– – – – – –

A few months ago, I was driving down Colorado Boulevard when the car in front of me slammed on its brakes. And red Honda and I slammed into him. Crunch. 

The panic flooded back, drowned out only by adrenaline. Everyone was OK, but there’s nothing like a close call to make you believe in miracle all over again.

After many phone calls to the body shop and the insurance company, I had to say farewell to my second Red Honda this summer.

I went to the body shop to clean out the car and say goodbye, and it was a weirdly emotional experience. I sat in the driver’s seat and cleaned out the glove box and remembered all the hours red Honda and I  had spent together. The tears, the laughter, and the spilled ice cream. The moments when I prayed bold prayers and gripped the steering wheel in frustration.

I called my parents in a weird state of tears and said “I feel sad. I don’t want to tell him goodbye.

And dad, in his wisdom, said, “I understand, Laura. Cars become a part of the family.

And so they do.

– – – – – –

Here’s the thing, friends – the thing that my cars are teaching me.

Miracle isn’t reserved for the near-miss and the scraping by.

It is, of course, present in those moments. Every single moment we are breathing on this Earth is one step from heaven if not for the Lord’s hand around us.

The Lord did a miracle on that day almost seven years ago when my friends and I survived the crash.

But he also did a number of miracles in the aftermath of the crash. When people forgave me. When friends listened. When my family spoke new life out of the hurt of it all. Because of their grace, I accepted what had happened and chose to move forward.

Because miracle isn’t reserved for the dramatic, life-altering moments.

Miracle isn’t one singular moment, but a series of extraordinary moments, strung together like beads on a necklace, or like days on our seasonal calendar. 

Because we are new in Christ, God’s miracles, just like his mercies, come to us anew each morning.

When you get the news just in time. When you are spared the pain by inches. When the plane crashes and you find out that your dad got off another plane just moments before. When the diagnosis takes a turn for the better. When you’re riding your bike with deftness and speed until, all at once, you’re thrown over the handlebars and sent soaring. And your ego is shattered, but not your vertebrae.

On this side of heaven, we will never know all the miracles that our God has orchestrated on our behalf. But oh, isn’t it just incredible to consider?

God and miracle go hand-in-hand. He is with us, and so are His mercies and His miracles.

In the messy, in the everyday, and in the seemingly routine.

Even and especially in the driver’s seat.

– – – – – –

A few weeks ago, I bought my third car. A used-but-new-to-me Honda. This one is white.

And she’s a beauty. I love this car, you guys.

This time, I signed the papers all by myself and felt very grown up about the whole thing.

When the nice dealership guys let me drive White Honda home for the first time, I paused on the way to pull off onto a dirt road. I put the shiny new thing in park.

And I thanked God for the miracle of normal, everyday life. For the miracle of breath each day. For the miracle of safety when injury was so close at hand.

For the miracle of newness from the old.

For the miracle it is that I get to travel into this next chapter with the Maker of Miracles ever as my advocate, my protector and my Father. There is a certain courage that comes from being His. And I felt it in the driver’s seat on that day, as I had so many days before.

As I sat in new White Honda, my miracle prayer came back with ease, with newness and with hope.

Thank you, Lord, for keeping me safe.

Lord, please, steer for me. Lord, please keep my friends and me in your care. 

Lord, go before me into this next chapter. Lord, keep me ever in awe of your everyday miracles. 

Welcome, new White Honda.

Welcome to the family.

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