It was uncommon, the dark night a spirit came to me, rousing me from slumber. Worry had torn me from sleep before, but this time it was new, focused, and deliberate, as if it was a force taking me by the shoulders and shaking me aware, as if it wasn’t worry after all but something singular, different.
A glance over to the clock beside my bed, which boldly declared 1:00 AM, caused a prick to my heart. I hadn’t yet heard the garage door open. My teenage son still wasn’t home. Not that I expected him to be just yet. The school had informed us the bus wasn’t scheduled back until about that time and I knew when we agreed to let Taylor park his vehicle on campus and drive home following a band trip to the state capitol that I wouldn’t like it.
So there I was worrying about that decision. Feeling the need to control everything.
Thinking about drunk drivers and isolated country roads and all that.
I got up then and began to walk around the room, chewing on all the possibilities which seem heightened at such a thick hour, remembering the stop signs that get run through on gravel thoroughfares, thinking of the truck of teenagers that would have killed the girls and me had I not stopped when I had the right of way the week before. When I had felt something tell me to break quickly, seconds before that truck roared past a stop sign at top speed in front of us.
“No,” I told myself. “Unlikely.” There are few drivers on the roads out here in the middle of the day as it is-there are even less on the road this time of night. The chances of encountering someone who has been drinking behind the wheel in the middle of nowhere, still fewer. Why do I always imagine the worst?
But just when I was calming down, another though occurred to me:
Deer would be a much more plausible scenario.
I wasn’t exactly pleased with myself, mind you, with why I had to continue to ruminate when all was surely well! That’s when I heard a voice clearly say, “Pray!”
Well, of course.
And so I did. "Please protect my son from deer Lord!" And then I laid back down in bed next to my peacefully slumbering husband and fell back to sleep until my phone vibrated minutes later. It was 1:20 in the morning and you know when you get a call at that hour, it hits your system like a nerve agent. In short, I shot out of that bed and was down the stairs and into the living room, shaking, before I was even awake.
It was Taylor. “Mom, I’ve been in an accident.”
“Where are you?” I asked, already evaluating the information, already thanking God for the voice of my son.
“On our gravel road. I hit a deer.”
“Are you okay?”
“Yes, but I can’t get the door open to get out and inspect the van,” he said and I could tell he was shaking too.
“Is it drivable?” I couldn’t have cared less what that van looked like. I just wanted Taylor to get on home in the Nissan Quest we'd given him, the van that kid made cool. The sort of mess he now had to contend with was the least of my worries.
“I think so. I’m blocking the road and there are headlights behind me.”
As I said, my nerves were all out of whack at this point and synapses weren’t firing. In short, I was suffering from late-night sleep-deprived paranoia. Why I thought headlights behind my son portended evil, I don’t know, but if nothing good happens after 10 o’clock at night, then certainly this was more true at 1:30 in the morning on a lightless rural road. “Drive home right now!” I ordered. “I am going to go out and sit on the porch until you get here."
Not sure either why sitting on the porch in the dark was a good idea. I guess it made me feel better than waiting inside, even though it was a cold, interminable wait in my nightgown. Seeing those glorious headlights finally cutting through the air like halos from heaven made it seem a good call though.
The next morning just after the sun came up I took a drive down the road a couple of miles to find the poor deer, just as Taylor had left it. It had lost its life when it wrapped itself around the front bumper to the driver’s side door. It was too large for me to move myself, so I returned home to make my report and later, as we prepared to leave for church, Kevin and Taylor returned to the scene to haul the carcass off the road. When they arrived, however, they found a kind neighbor had already cleared the road for travel. All was well. Or mostly so.
I was thankful for the act of kindness. I was thankful for the protection Taylor received. And I was thankful for the opportunity to partner with God in prayer, to act in a way that further illuminated his investment in us, in the light, in the dark, and in the shadows. Where silence is, apart from distracting communication.
If we could be mindful always, we would be aware of regular, constant, supernatural assistance in our lives.
If we really took the time to pay attention, to be still and quiet, to breathe in, soak in, the presence of his spirit alongside us, one more real than anything we can see, we would know we are constantly offered an opportunity for partnership.
And sometimes, it's that opportunity that shakes us awake.