Friday, July 11, 2008

Lesson in the Woods

Is it really okay to be "me"? Does God really accept me, this bundle of weakness?

One day last fall I was driving through the Oak Ridges Moraine on Weston Road. I threw a sidelong glance down a concession road as I whizzed by. I hadn't ever been down that road before and with my camera on the front seat beside me and the blush of autumn about halfway through it's glorious rise to full riotous colour all around me, I couldn't resist. I turned around first chance I had and answered the beckoning call of adventure. I turned west onto the forest canopied gravel road that was clearly labeled "No Exit". Hmm. That might have been prophetic, come to think of it, but the promise of an "end", really just spurred me on.

I half expected the road to stop just over the next hill. And then the next hill, and the next and the next. But the hills just kept coming. I have no idea how far it was exactly, but I think it would have taken me somewhere between one and two hours to walk out. I passed only three or four driveways, each one leading into the woods and to an opulent estate home mostly hidden in the trees.

Just 50 metres or so from where the road finally came to an end, there was a little lay-by and I pulled in there to park. I could see that although the road itself ended, the road allowance didn't and beyond where the gravel stopped and a big sign reading "No Motorized Vehicles Beyond This Point", was a footpath continuing west. I was so excited as I unpacked my camera and fiddled with it a bit before getting ready to hit the trail. As I exited the car, my eyes were on the sky. It began to spit tiny droplets of rain onto my face, cause a bit of worry. It was just as I closed the door -- having first locked it by deeply ingrained and now unconcsious habit -- that I realized with a sinking heart, my keys were still inside! I could see them, mocked by my brightly coloured beaded key-fob just laying there on the seat and me - helpless - on just the other side of the glass.

Well, there wasn't much I could do about it now, I quickly decided. I might as well finish my adventure before I stopped to figure out what to do about how I was going to get out of there. I headed down the trail. I didn't stay long. There was only time to get a couple of good shots before it becames apparent that even sturdy sandals were completely unsuitable for the steep trail. Alas, my running shoes were in the car. Along with my keys.

As I headed back to the road I thought about my options. I could walk out, but that would take at least an hour, maybe two and I really wasn't in condition for those hills. Nor did I have walking shoes. And when I got to the main road, there would still be another half hour or so of walking until I reached somewhere that I could use a phone. And it was starting to rain hard. I slipped my camera under the car, perching it on top of the gravel to stay dry while I prayed hard and fast about what to do. I quickly decided that the only solution would be to break a window on my car. All that was standing between me and those keys was one thin little pane of glass, after all. I began to cast my eyes about the surrounding landscape for some kind of a tool to use, perhaps a rock, and right out loud, asked my Father for help with the cause.

Within 30 seconds my eyes landed on a length of 2 by 4, which had a large pointed dollop of concrete firmly stuck to one end. It was the perfect tool for attempting to smash hard-to-break tempered automotive glass and I took it as a sign that God was surely with me. I wonder if the road crew who tossed their construction waste into the ditch after putting up the "No Motorized Vehicles..." sign had any idea that the refuse they left would someday be an answer to prayer. I doubt it. I doubt it very much.

But an answer to prayer it was. I laid hands on my divinely appointed tool and set to work on the little triangular window in the back door - the smallest window - and I hoped the least expensive.

Bam! The concrete bounced off the glass. I suddenly realized this was going to be harder than it looked. I set my resolve, planted my feet firmly and "Bam!" the tool went again. "Bam! Bam! Bam!" Each time I tried, it bounced back off the glass. I tried harder. And the more power I put into it, the more bounce it had until it was bouncing nearly out of my hands. I stopped, took a deep breath and psyched myself up. This was going to be the mother of all bams and when I struck the car this last time, "Crash!" The window shattered into a million fragments. At the same time, the hunk of concrete which had fallen off the 2 by 4 on impact landed on the back seat amids tiny little jewels of brightly sparkling glass. I reached in the window, popped up the lock and I was FREE!

Back at work 20 minutes later, the whole adventure seemed like a dream. "Why didn't you just call us on your cell phone?" one co-worker asked. My cell phone, of course, had been laying on the front seat, right next to my keys.

The lesson? Well, there was a time this little adventure would have started a cacophony of voices in my head. "Loser!" "You can't do anything right." "You're no good." "This would never happen to Belinda." You know, stuff like that.

But I was seeing myself in a whole different light today. Instead I heard voices saying, "How resourceful!" "God was with you to help you find that tool!" "Great decision making in a crisis."

No, I never should have been in that position. I should never have put my keys down before getting out of the car. I should have tucked them securely in my pocket instead. But I did absentmindedly lay them down. Then I got out and I locked them in the car.

The question, once in the middle of the dilemma, quickly became, "What now?" not "What if?"

God was with me that afternoon in the woods. He was well aware of my weaknesses and made sure the tool I would need had been thrown haphazardly into the ditch and lay there undisturbed for months - maybe even years.

As I recall, it cost about $250 to get that broken window replaced. Was the lesson God consolidated in my heart that day worth the price? I thought so!

6 comments:

Belinda said...

Oh, my friend, thank you for finally telling that story, and so wonderfully well!

My favourite line was, "I prayed hard and fast about what to do. I quickly decided that the only solution would be to break a window." :)

The image of you battering the car window like a medieval warrior woman just makes me roar with laughter.

And to think that you calmly went back to work! This is one reason I love you. No, "this would never happen to Belinda" but I get to enjoy it vicariously.

Susan said...

You know, deep in my heart, I think I always wanted an excuse to break a car window on purpose. Sigh. I wonder what else is not my list that God is planning to cross off.

Medieval warrior woman??? Well, I guess I've been labeled worse things than that! :o)

Going back to work... Well, what would be the point of having an adventure if you didn't have an audience to tell the story to? (The organized types just shook their heads and looked up. The disorganized ones like me shook too - with laughter!)

I'm glad you enjoyed it.

MARILYN said...

What a story! Ah, the price one pays for one's art. Camera within arm's reach - can't resist exploring for a possible pic!

Your sentence " 'What now?' not 'What if?' " had me nodding. No point musing about what you should or shouldn't have done or what might or might not have happened...just pray to know next step and keep eyes open for the answer. Love it, Susan!

But my favorite is your comment about making use of what someone else left behind as waste. This sent me off in a swirl of thoughts, esp. about the things in our lives that WE count as a waste. In God's hands, though......amazing things can happen with that stuff.

I'm glad you took the time to write this!

Belinda said...

Me too, Marilyn--about the story being written. I think that our experiences are wasted if they aren't written down.

I think of all the lives that pass unnoticed and I just know that stories died with them, never to be told. I wonder if there are writers in heaven?

Angcat said...

Ahhh Susan,
I echo everyone's thoughts. This was superb. I am so glad you finished the story and we got to know the end.
The lack of regret and 'what now' totally grabbed me too.
There is much of life to be gleaned from this tale...acceptance, wisdom, perseverance,laughter.
I loved it
:-)

Joyful Fox said...

Susan,

I so enjoyed the spontanaiety of your adventure and your candid report of it. I especially liked the end where you chose to marvel at your resourcefulness, glean the beauty, and go forward.

I echo Angcat's sentiments and am glad you chose to post it. I want to be more like you, sister.