Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Lost in the Fog

When most people consider what frightens them, they think of the unusual: snakes, spiders, public speaking, enclosed spaces, but the most frightening experiences are those that are completely usual, but where the familiar has been removed.

Imagine for a moment being a young child. Your parents have taken you to the mall, a place of delights for all of the senses: the smell of cinnamon buns, the sound of people laughing and walking quickly, bright colors from the stores filled with toys you just can't wait to take home. There's always the hope of coming home with a new Build a Bear or a cookie from Mrs. Field's or maybe time at the playground. Every moment in the mall is one of anticipation. Until your parents disappear. Maybe you lingered at the window of the Disney Store, maybe you lost your hold on a hand, whatever happened, they're gone, and you realize that you are completely alone in a strange place. The same place that just a few moments ago held nothing but joy and thrills now seems dark and threatening.

The mall didn't change, just the child's perception because of the loss of familiar, the one thing that gave them the security to relax and enjoy their surroundings.

Last Wednesday night I experienced one of the most frightening nights of my entire life. Northeastern Wisconsin was foggy all of last week. There was a huge 20+ car pile up Tuesday morning, and everyone was reduced to driving slowly and being careful. But the fog grew even worse Wednesday evening. It was so bad that Jesse and I decided not to take Mia to Bible class for safety's sake. I spent the day at Mom's listing for eBay. She picked Mia up from the bus and brought her back to her house, and we left the house around 7:45 to get Mia home for her 8:00 bedtime.

I live about 4-1/2 miles from my mom's house, and it's an easy drive. Turn right out of her driveway and go straight to the intersection of the highway. Turn left and stay straight until I come to another intersection with a flashing red light. Go straight through the intersection and turn left at the first intersection. That's our road, so I stay on it taking two 90 degree turns and turn in to the driveway at the fourth house on the right.

The fog was terrible; I've never driven in anything like it. I couldn't see what was on the opposite side of the road! When Mia and I came to the first intersection, I realized that there was no way that I could see any traffic coming from either way, and they wouldn't be able to see me either. So I stopped, and we prayed that God would keep us safe. It seemed like an incredibly long time to see that flashing red light, and I was so grateful for its appearance. We stopped and prayed again at the intersection. Now I had to find our road: the first road to the left. I was driving slowly, creeping along at 25 mph and looking carefully around me, but suddenly I realized that I had gone too far. I must have passed our road because I was down to Mia's bus stop.

My heart was pounding, but I knew where I was, so I pulled into a driveway, we prayed, and I turned around. I drove even slower, and when I found a road to the right (remember I was coming from the other direction now), I breathed a sigh of relief and turned down it. Afer just a few minutes I was suddenly I was driving on snow and headed directly for a stand of trees; this was not our road! I did a Y turn and headed back for the road I had come from. As I drove back down the strange road, I could see a house that I hadn't been able to see in my first pass, and I realized I had absolutely no idea where I was.

Jesse and I have lived in our house for over three years. Even before we moved out here, we were in the area often because it's near his parents' home. I know this area well, but with the fog, I couldn't tell where I was, and there were no reference points to get me back on track.

I put the van in park and called Jesse. I had called him before I left Mom's driveway, but he didn't answer. He didn't answer this time either, and that flipped my panic switch. Not only was I completely and utterly lost, but my touchstone was unavailable (I found out later, he had forgotten the phone in his car). I called my mom and talked to my stepdad, Jeff. I knew that they couldn't help me, but I needed to hear a familiar voice. Jeff was sweet enough to offer to try and find me, but how on earth could he do that? I couldn't talk through the tears, so I hung up and tried to breathe.

My crying was starting to upset Mia, so I had to get it under control. We prayed again, and I drove to the intersection where I had turned wrong. I turned right and started driving slowly, praying the entire time for something familiar. After several more minutes, I found myself on the opposite side of the intersection with the flashing red light, so I knew just where I was. I turned right thinking it would be easier to find our way home coming from a different way. This time, on the highway, I could see the lights of several businesses and farms. It seemed like years, but I found my next turn, and made it. Another eternity to our road, but I found it! Mia was practically singing for joy by this time. I think I finally started breathing again when I pulled into the driveway. My whole body was so tense, I practically had to peel my fingers from the steering wheel.

Mia, with her childlike innocence, quickly shook off her fear and ran carefree into the house. She trusted me completely to get her home safely. I was a wreck. I called Jeff to let them know we were home safe. The next day my body was wracked with pain from the tension and stress.

But by Friday, the fog was clearing up, and while I was driving, I didn't give a second thought to my surroundings. I completely reverted to my former habits. The familiar had been returned, and I was so secure that I didn't even consider the former danger.

I think that this is similar to what we feel when something shakes the foundation of our lives: loss of job or home or wealth or love, cancer, death. These things make our familiar world seem strange and frightening because we were happily living our lives, and now something has unexpectedly turned it all upside down. Life is not what we anticipated or wanted. It's terrifying, because now that we now that something awful like this can happen, it feels as though a door has been opened to bad things, and after the first one comes in, others can follow. Our equilibrium is lost.

Like a child who has lost his parents in the mall or me lost in the fog, we feel alone and terrified. In moments like that, remember this:
Don't panic. I'm with you.
There's no need to fear for I'm your God.
I'll give you strength. I'll help you.
I'll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you. Isaiah 41:10

No matter what the circumstance, no matter how bad it is, that verse stands as a solid foundation for my faith. I could put in so many other verses conveying a similar message, but none of them can make the solidity of the promise in this one. "Don't panic, I'm with you," are exactly the right words I needed to hear in the van that night, and I hope that wherever you are, whatever has stolen away your security, I pray that this verse touches you right where you are. Let the words sink into your soul and trust Him when He says, "I'll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you."


Ashasnana said...

Not only did your story and the verse touch me, it washed over me like Living Water! Thank you, Christy, and thank you, Father, for timely encouragement.