Are You There God? It’s Me Sunde

Just a truck with impaling stakes piled up on it

don’t know if there’s a god and I’m not at all religious but this thing happened to me a couple of years ago that made me a little bit more of a believer.  I’m going to preface this story by admitting that,  at the time of the incident,  I was listening to a lot of  Joel Osteen, the upbeat and optimistic Houston preacher.  He has a channel on Sirius Radio and I needed some sunny optimism in my life so I began listening  whenever I was in the car. That guy practically charmed the atheist right out of me!  I really began to wonder about there being a higher power.

I was pretty deep into the God question on the morning that Britt and I drove back to San Francisco from a snowboarding trip to Tahoe.  It was dark when we left and a surprise snow storm had begun.  I was driving and Britt immediately fell asleep in the front seat like he always does.  Jasmine was snuggled into her dog bed behind our seats.

Driving through town on the way to I-80 I saw a big rig pulling out of a gas station.  Its load was, what looked to me to be, giant impaling sticks.  I guess they were for landscapers to tie trees to probably but the neatly stacked bundles of 8 foot long, sharp wooden stakes made me shudder.

“I’d hate to get in a wreck with that truck.”  I said to sleeping Britt.

The snow was really coming down as I accelerated onto the freeway.  It was sticking too but the snow plows  hadn’t been sent out yet.  With white knuckles I carefully began the journey down the steep and winding three lane freeway.   The snowstorm seemed to be turning into a blizzard.

“Hey Britty, wake up.  It’s really snowing.”

I’m not a very experienced snow driver so I wanted some moral support and advice.  He began calmly coaching me down the mountain.  But then there was a muffled noise of impact,  our truck lurched and we began sliding across the road.  We’d been hit from behind by a Prius without snow chains.  We began to spin.  Time slowed down.  Britt was super naturally calm.

“It’s fine,” he said.  “Don’t touch anything, don’t touch the brake, just let it straighten itself out.”

“This is how people die in accidents.” I thought to myself.  “Just like this, because a truck always comes next.”

After our first rotation, as we were facing up the freeway, we both looked through the windshield to see what was about to careen into us.  But there were no headlights at all.  We just had to get safely out of the spin and we’d survive this!  We were in a weird, surreal bubble inside our truck where it was silent and cozy and warm.  We grabbed each other’s hands, I reached over to Jasmine.  We were safe in this little circle of love while the truck we were in continued spinning out of control down an icy mountain pass.

Our truck finally slowed down and came out of the spin.  I eased it against the right hand guard rail.  We safely came to a stop, facing down the mountain,  on a roomy shoulder of the freeway near an exit ramp.  Jasmine was still in a deep sleep. A large truck roared past us two seconds after we stopped.  I gasped.  It was The Impaling Truck.

“Oh my god, Britt, that truck with all those impaling sticks could have hit us!”

The sun was coming up as we drove slowly down to sea level.  We stopped for gas and got out to check the damage.  There was none.  Not a scratch.

“Geez,”  I told Britt, “Maybe Joel’s right, God took care of us.” Britt shrugged and got back in the truck.

I felt grateful and warm and fuzzy for a while.  I liked the idea of a nice generous and decent god looking out for me.

Oh Joel

Fast forward a couple of years to the terrible flooding that took place in Houston.  Joel Osteen’s mega church was getting a lot of criticism for not opening its doors to flood victims since it was on high ground and was the size of a football stadium.  After days of punishing public pressure, the church agreed to open its doors to temporarily house people that needed it.  I watched the news coverage of that day.  There was Joel, my upbeat and open hearted preacher, standing uncomfortably and unwelcoming in a hallway of his church.  He looked to be paralyzed with heebee jeebeez, a stiff smile on his face as he watched humanity flooding into his church. It was disheartening to see and my interest in God sort of dissolved out of me.

The experience of our accident has faded away a bit now.  Like all super natural experiences, its realness has dimmed with time.  But what hasn’t left me is that quiet moment in the spinning truck, the circle of love that kept us calm and safe.  Maybe that is God.


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