I remember my first day of college. I was nervous, probably late, and up at six. It was still dark outside. I was anxious to see the patches of road which I knew would all too soon grow familiar as day after day I would pass by them, pass time by them, and even keep time by them.
The route was unfamiliar to me, and when I at last got through back roads and made it to the highway the entrance ramp brought to me up to a stretch of road overlooking a great expanse below. Mountains vaulting before me, behind me, and in the distant sky. The rising sun was dying the clouds a misty violet- highlighting them in brilliant gold- and rays were shooting down into the valley casting deep purple shadows. The beauty caught my breath and brought tears to my eyes. This is what I'd see every morning. Thank you, God.
Such gifts of beauty have been frequent in my many excursions. I've known sunny days so delightful- with the wind in my face and music playing in my ears and the sweet taste of freedom in my mouth- that made me so happy I thought I could burst. And I've known days driven in torrents- when the rain came down so hard and the roads were so slick or the snow so deep that I felt first terror- and then a surrender taking over my soul as I sensed the fragility of life and the safety of my Father's loving arms.
I remember once I was driving home on a wet day and I came to a blind T- where there should have been a traffic light (I have since rerouted to avoid that turn) and where parked cars made it difficult to see oncoming traffic. I took the turn quickly to take advantage of what visibility I had at the moment, and the back of the car slid out. Back and forth the car s-curved... I felt my blood chill within me as I felt what could have happened if there had been a bit more momentum or if anything- or anyone- had been nearby.
Such narrow escapes always leave me with a breathless, numb feeling- like I cheated death- or tested God- or made my angels work hard. The panicy feeling doesn't subside till tears come- usually hours later.
In one of my classes this last semester we had a session where we interviewed a fellow classmate to see how they dealt with stress. The guy I talked to said one of the things he did was drive- and drive fast. At the time it struck me as slightly odd- driving fast is rather equivalent to courting death- and as thrilling as that may be I've had enough thrill unasked for keep me content and loving life dearly. But I have since discovered that driving does have an amazingly therapeutic effect on me.
I have come to the conclusion that the calm which a car creates in me is caused by some sort of habitual, happy, anticipatory nostalgia which it instantly induces. I don't always see beauty when I drive- I don't always go anywhere- half the time I leave the music off- but I am instantly aware as soon as I get into a car that I am delightfully alone- in a singular sort of way. The rumble of the car seems one with my own heart-beat- constant and comforting. And in the isolation that the four walls provide- the windows, moving panoramas looking out into the word- it's just me and my thoughts.
In the world but not quite. Alone but not quite. For it's in the car that I see and feel evidence of God all around me- His hand in the things I pass and in each safe turn I make... and though I can recall many drives spent in ceaseless prayer- I have also known the quiet assurance that though I drove and drove and never thought a thought- or said a word- He was still there and listening anyway.
Thank you for the sunrise. Thank you for keeping me safe. And thanks for listening.