Back Seat Driver

Going to sleep-away camp on an island in a mountain lake was one of the coolest experiences growing up. Buying supplies only added to the excitement. I had just finished fourth or fifth grade when Mom took me one afternoon to Kmart to buy all the necessary accouterments. On our way back we stopped for an Italian Ice – the cherry flavored dome reached high above its paper cup. It had been a good evening. We packed everything into the trunk just before twilight. The light drizzle started just as we finished packing the car. Since it was only the two of us, I got to sit shotgun. Being the early 80s, the seat belt laws hadn’t really come into effect yet.

The trip home should have only taken a half an hour to forty minutes. The way was windy and passed by the reservoir. Five minutes into our journey home, it was dark, and the drizzle had turned into a light rain. We were heading up a slight incline when I heard the man in the back seat command me to put on my seat belt. Jumping out of my skin in terror, I wheeled around to look back to where the intruder was.

It was empty.

I looked at my mom who was driving unconcernedly to the crest of the hill.

“Did you hear that?”

She looked at me confused, “Hear what?”

I leaned back into my seat, face frowning. I HAD heard him. I knew he spoke. I peered again at the empty back seat. Shaking my head, I turned and looked first at my mom and then out the window.

Imperiously this time, he shouted, “PUT ON YOUR SEAT BELT!” Without hesitation,  I grabbed the belt and buckled it in a single motion. I had not even straightened my body out to sit back in my seat when the car went into a skid down the other side of the steep hill we had just crested. Mom’s knuckles turned white as she gripped the steering wheel struggling to regain control.


A massive SUV smashed into our tiny compact from behind hurtling toward the T-junction at the edge of the reservoir.

The guardrail saved us. The car was up on one side in dip next to the rail. My hands were clenched, and I was screaming for Mom to turn off the engine, “IT’S GONNA EXPLODE!” I’d definitely seen too many movies. Suspended in the air by my belt, my right leg stuck between the seat and the door, I clenched the crumpled white paper cup stained with what had been my cherry Italian ice. Mom sat dazed for a while then shut off the engine. Since we had flipped into a hollow or runoff ditch, she was able to open her door a crack. She undid her seatbelt and slid out, closing the door behind her.

Not wanting to be alone I tugged on my leg until I freed it. Then I undid my seatbelt and tumbled down to the driver’s side, opened the door and crawled out after her. The car was totaled.

I often think about that experience and the many others when I came dangerously close to losing my life, and I am immensely grateful to know that there is a God and that He cares for me.

Isaiah 40:11 He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.

Psalm 91:9-12

9If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”

and you make the Most High your dwelling,

10no harm will overtake you,

no disaster will come near your tent.

11For he will command his angels concerning you

to guard you in all your ways;

12they will lift you up in their hands,

so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

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