On this Easter Sunday, I would like to share with you how I found my faith and belief in God. This story takes place in January of 2005:
I was never a spiritual person. I viewed religion as a collection of moral misgivings for a misguided youth. Pastors, preachers and holy teachers were symbols of a conservative political agenda. Angels, demons, Jesus, Abraham, Mohammad, the list goes on – somewhere between Allah and Vishnu, I lost faith that so much could possibly exist. To this day, I am not how I would define a religious person, but I now view life with a humble understanding that there is more to this world than what we can comprehend.
The month we had off for winter break from my undergraduate senior year passed by as quickly as a celebrity marriage. It was cold, it was mundane, it was bleak, but I was home. There’s just something comfortable about being home. Alas, because of my job, we were required to come back to school earlier than everyone else, and because of my boss, our staff had to come back even earlier than the other staffs around campus. No one was pleased with the situation, but we dealt with it because our boss was a stickler.
The day I had to make the three-and-a-half hour drive back to school it was raining. The menacing clouds were so gray they were almost black. They lowered themselves into the atmosphere, abating Earth of all sunlight. The incensed rain was freezing; it slammed itself against the ground as if paying back a long overdue vengeance to the Earth. To extend its torture of the land, and my psyche, it surged down in cascades. As I peered out of my city window, I could barely see my car in the driveway through the downpour.
My car: a 1998 Plymouth Neon in forest green. Not exactly an all-terrain vehicle; barely an any-terrain vehicle. I called it “Dory” after the fish with anteretrograde amnesia from Finding Nemo. I graced it with this name because of the moon-roof that didn’t open, the power windows in the front and roll-down windows in the back, and the CD player that only played Paul Simon. If my car were human, it would have had considerable mental issues.
My father came up behind me to peer out the window; he glanced at the monsoon and darted his eyes over to my car. He pondered the situation for an extenuating three seconds and decided that there was no way I would drive up to school today. There is no reasoning with my father; there was less reasoning with my boss. Between those two men I had no decision-making privileges; they both meant well. I turned to my dad and explained that the car was already packed and I already promised to be up there today. In lieu of his protests and dog-ate-my-homework excuses, I held my ground; I promised to be up there, I would be up there. After about a half hour of pleading, he kissed my forehead and told me to drive slowly. I hugged my mom, play-punched my brother, and received many wet, sloppy kisses from my puppy and was on my way.
I pulled out of the driveway with the windshield wipers on full blast. I couldn’t help thinking: “yikes, if I need my wipers on full blast in the street, what will it be like on the highway?” I went through Staten Island, passed over the Goethals Bridge onto the New Jersey Turnpike. So far so good; I was going slower than usual and started getting concerned about how long it was going to take me to get up to Binghamton. I got off the exit for “The Oranges” for Route 280 West.
As I drove 280, I relaxed into my seat. It would normally be about three hours from that point, but with the weather, I was expecting it to be at least four. Usually, I drove about eighty miles-per-hour on this road; very illegal, but very efficient. Today, I clearly could not go that speed, but I decided a solid seventy miles-per-hour would still get me up to school in a decent amount of time.
The rain pounded against my window. I squinted my eyes to try and see through the mess of water on my windshield and popped Paul Simon into my CD player. Just then I noticed car lights about thirty feet ahead of me. They weren’t moving. My first reaction was to switch lanes, but there, ahead on the horizon, over the hill beyond my field of vision, was a line of cars completely stopped in the middle of the highway. I couldn’t switch lanes; I had no other choice than to slam on my non anti-lock brakes. I started hydroplaning.
At seventy miles-per-hour, with no stopping in my near future, I flew to the car that was now fifteen-feet away from me. Just then I realized that I was going to die. There was no turning back, there would be no second chances, no apologies for my wrongdoings, no making up for my past regrets – I was going to die. I was going to die for ignoring my father, I was going to die because I was in a rush, I was going to die and I had dug my own grave. I held onto the wheel so tightly as if I was would be able to grab my life back the harder I squeezed. My eyes were almost closed, but I swear I saw my heart throbbing out my chest. All I could do was face my mortality and pray to a God that I so often questioned to save me from the destruction that stood before me.
Just then, my car stopped. Approximately six inches away from the back of the car in front of me, my car stopped dead in its tracks. There was no physical explanation for what I was experiencing. The sheer velocity of my car had guaranteed me an early grave. Less than half-a-second before this my car was flying across the highway. There was just no answer. Someone, or something, had stopped my car that day, and whatever it was, saved my life.
I was shaking so hard and I couldn’t catch my breath. I was just saved from certain death. I cried for the majority of the ride up. I don’t know if I cried because I was frightened or if I cried because I had underwent something larger than me, than gravity, than life itself. I still can’t answer what, or why me, but that day, I found faith.