I did learn from all of them. How to calm down. Slow down. Concentrate. Think of the people in the cars around me.
One terrible time, I was innocent, hit by a semi turning in front of me from the wrong lane. That time, I felt as if God was giving me another chance to live. The semi stopped just before it crushed my car.
The worst accident that was my fault happened because I impatiently made a left turn onto very busy Transit Road, but not at a signal. I had had surgery recently, I was exhausted from Christmas shopping, and I wanted to get home. I trusted I could keep a good eye on traffic. A woman was driving for blocks in the turning lane. As I turned left, we collided. I obviously had not seen her. She had her little girl in the car. The child wasn't hurt but her mother couldn't stop crying. I kept saying "I'm sorry." The cop who came to the scene gave me a ticket even though he hadn't witnessed the accident. I don't blame him.
It took me a long time after that before I trusted myself enough to make a left turn.
I've always thought that we live the way we drive, drive the way we live. Some days, we're calm, collected, lovingly aware, and we drive carefully, aware of everyone around us. Other days, we're stressed, distracted, barreling through life, and we make foolish mistakes on the road or take unnecessary risks. We've forgotten that we're part of an ongoing traffic flow.
There are amazing patterns that take shape on a road. Someone enters a lane at high speed, cutting off the car behind him, yet somehow he merges in without incident. The traffic flows on. Someone tailgates - yet the car ahead of her doesn't stop suddenly, causing a collision. The traffic flows on. Why aren't there more accidents? It's a miracle that there aren't. Yet when we pass an accident scene, there are the police, the fire department, or helpful passers-by, someone there to assist.
Perpetually I thank God, in amazement, for the incredible computers our brains are, able to make minute adjustments constantly. I believe that working within us and with us, God is making a way, helping the traffic flow.
Why is there an accident in one situation and not another? Why is one person injured and not another? Why are the innocents killed or injured? Not knowing the answers to these mysteries, we pray. We trust in the larger pattern, God's pattern, that we cannot see.
Life is a constant flow of traffic that we participate in. God is always making a way for our life and the lives around us to flow, guiding us in transitions to make them smoothly, even when we're afraid, distracted, overtired, forget to signal our intentions.
But God also allows us to fail, to have accidents. Sometimes we cause these injuries to our lives and the lives of those around us. Sometimes the accidents aren't our fault and we're injured and devastated anyway. We limp along in the traffic of our lives, or we pull off the road for awhile to catch our breath. Somehow gently over time God guides us back into the flow so we can participate in the ongoing energy of life once more.
Often in the passenger seat of a car I simply observe, marveling at the diversity of the cars around me, the colors, the styles, the bumper stickers, the people inside them. All of them - God's children. All of us traveling down this road together, participating in the energy of the life flow, relying on each other to travel at speed, to make lane changes safely. Somehow most of the time we do. God is making a way for all of us, until it's time for God to bring us home. God even guides the distracted or speeding ones who do stupid things, whom I can forgive because I've been distracted and unwise myself, moved too quickly, selfishly, at times.
Life flows on and on and we participate in a traffic pattern far larger than ourselves in which we're all needed so that the traffic flows with unceasing beautiful energy. What a miracle! "Answer when I call, my saving God. In my troubles, You cleared a way; show me favor, hear my prayer" (Psalm 4.).