Thirty years ago this week – April 15, 1992 – I could have died. Speaking of guardrails (my short quote last week) … if it weren’t for one, I wouldn’t be writing this.
But not for the reason you might guess.
Yes, I was driving. My destination was Mission Springs Conference Center, the Covenant’s camp in Scotts Valley, California. With the departure of some long-time employees and the different leadership style of Mike Sheridan, the new Executive Director, there were hints of rebellion among the redwoods. As Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors, I called a mandatory all-staff meeting after lunch. I wanted to listen to their concerns, but also needed to assure them that Mike had the board’s full support.
And yes, I was being careful. The last section of the two-hour drive is CA Highway 17, a dizzying fifteen-mile-stretch of brakes and bends, but I was both familiar and comfortable with the drive. Since I had plenty of time, I kept my pace at the speed limit of 50mph, and remained in the slow lane, enjoying a smooth ride on a clear and calm day.
I had no warning and no time to react. Half-way through Big Moody Curve (pictured above) a seventy-five-foot ash tree fell onto the roof of my little Toyota Tercel, which came to an immediate halt amidst the branches. I was able to open the driver’s door because …. Oh, let’s start that sentence again properly. I was alive because the tree was resting on the guardrail, a few feet to the right of the front passenger door.
And because the driver of the tanker truck behind me stopped in time.
When I emerged from among the branches, I walked around the car – traffic was completely stopped in my direction – full of adrenaline and disbelief: what just happened?
I could see the physical evidence: one side of a fork in the tree had completely given way, and its descent coincided perfectly with my car's forward motion. What I couldn’t see – and still can’t – was a clear understanding of the spiritual dimension to the event. Again, I inquired – what happened here?
My deliberations were suspended by the scurry of activities that followed. A Highway Patrol officer quickly appeared to assess the scene and start his report. Someone pulled a chain saw out of his pickup; the tree was quickly trimmed, and people tossed the branches over the guardrail.
Eventually, I was able to start my car and was given permission to drive the remaining ten miles, peering awkwardly through a broken windshield. When I arrived at Mission Springs, a small crowd gathered to gawk. But I was fine, we had the meeting, and the staff unity was restored.
Thirty years later, my wishes remain.
I wish I had a camera with me so I could have documented the event.
I wish I had listened to the KCBS radio traffic report: In the Santa Cruz mountains, a tree fell onto a driver’s car. No injuries reported.
I wish I could have seen if there was an angel hovering around the scene.
There’s not much I can confidently assert about this incident. I’m not prone to interpreting events as indicators of spiritual warfare. I found myself reflecting about it on this instance – were there forces that wanted to keep me from the meeting? – but drew no obvious conclusions.
I can affirm this – every day is a gift. I say those words frequently to my hospice patients, but over the past thirty years my personal awareness of that truth periodically rings fresh. However, this is the only instance of which I am aware. I have no doubt that angels have been busy protecting me without my knowledge.
I also see a lesson on the covenant (small c) relationship we have with God. Our God has always made covenants with his people, with actions laid out for each party.
We are his people. He calls you and me to depend on him and trust his goodness, which means we follow his commands. We don’t jump the guardrails. We thrive when we stay in our lane.
For his part, God is completely faithful to what he has promised to do – protect and nurture us. And on April 15, 1992, he used a guardrail to show me his love. And I am grateful.
What about you? How does this story move you? What’s been your guardrail that proves God’s faithful care and protection in your life? I’d love to see your replies on Facebook or your direct comments on this page.
Benediction of Blessing
May you grow in your desire and ability to stay in your lane.
May you have eyes to see the evidence of the guardrails of God’s faithful protection of your life.
May you be filled with awe and wonder to think that there are angels hovering around you.
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All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version, NIV. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. TM