Even before my daughter screamed the words, I saw him coming, crossing over into my lane of traffic. We were traveling the 60 miles an hour speed limit on a two-lane country road.
“I know, I see him,” were all the words I could get out.
The mind is an amazing thing. In the few seconds I had, I assessed all the options. I thought about hitting my brakes but knew there was a semi-truck following too close. We would be fatally smashed from behind for sure. I couldn’t swerve right because there was a long line of speeding on-coming traffic. That didn’t seem like a great option either. We were going too fast, he was too close and we had nowhere to go. Collision was inevitable. Out of options, I turned my wheels hard left in the direction of the on-coming car. Collision was still eminent but perhaps I could lessen the blow. I remember thinking, I don’t know how this is going to turn out. I, honestly, didn’t think it ended well.
I watched our vehicles speed straight for each other, then just before impact, I closed my eyes. It wasn’t how I always thought I would close my eyes in such a situation. I didn’t squeeze them tightly shut covering them with my hands and grimace my face like I do at a terrifying scene in a violent movie. When I closed my eyes I was immediately taken back to my big, brown, overstuffed leather chair. It’s the chair in the den I sit in every morning to meet with Jesus. I closed my eyes in the car that day in the same way I close my eyes every morning when I shut out all the outer distractions and allow my soul to commune with God: slowly, worshipfully, peacefully, hopefully. I experienced the same Presence in that moment that meets with me daily in the quiet place.
The truth of Isaiah 26:3, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you” became a reality. In those daily encounters with Jesus, solitude had become a training ground where my heart had become not only aware of God’s presence in the place of quiet, but had, imperceptibly, produced a quality of “steadfastness” in the storm. There was a divine formation and activity going on beneath my consciousness that formed in me a well-trained heart; a grounded, God-centered heart that gave me the ability to be kept in perfect peace in the most dire of circumstances. And more.
Solitude is not withdrawal from ordinary life. Solitude is the very ground of our lives. It’s not just a place but in incomprehensible ways, our hearts are quietly transformed to respond faithfully to the ebb and flow of living in this world. It gives us the ability to live with longing in our soul and not give up. It’s the place where we hang our hat of faith and hold on to hope, despite pain or loss. It’s real strength that’s needed to forgive others and withstand the forces of evil; to take God at his word; to be convinced there is more going on than what you see.
I don’t remember hearing shattering glass or the sound of crushing metal. I don’t remember an impact or coming to a stop. In fact, when I slowly opened my eyes I expected to see my den, stacks of books and pictures of my family. What I saw was our van completely demolished. Every window was shattered, the front end appeared gone. Cars had stopped, people were yelling to see if we were okay. Not only were we miraculously alive, other than some deep bruises, we were okay.
Jesus, literally, saved our lives that day. Yet in a similar fashion, he has saved my soul.