Sometimes I think that in January we should all wear badges that say "I survived the holidays." Each Christmas our family loads up the minivan (2 adults, 4 kids, one dog, and all the presents) for a 12 hour drive from North Carolina to my parents' house in Michigan. It's a haul, but always a fun time with family. This year, however, our return home was a bit of a nightmare.
We left early in the morning to avoid an oncoming snowstorm, but an hour into the drive, we blew a tire. The timing was not good. We were in the middle of Detroit, just over a bridge with only a thin shoulder on the right. When we pulled over, one side of our vehicle was against the cement barrier of the bridge and the side with the flat tire was about two feet from the traffic lane. It was a 70 mile an hour highway and the vehicles were coming downhill and around a curve. Our van was shaking violently every time some double-trailer semi truck whooshed by. The kids were pretty scared, but my wife and I tried to assure them everything would be okay.
Thankful for the AAA roadside assistance we’d recently purchased, I quickly made the call. An emergency operator came on the line and asked my name and then, in a serious voice said, “Mr. Rutledge… are you in a safe place, can you move to a safe place, or do you need emergency assistance?”
Not wanting to be overdramatic, I started to tell her that we were probably fine. My wife, who is a lot better in a crisis than I am, shook her head and said, “We can’t stay here for long. Please, tell them to come now.”
So I had to stop and think a moment. Considering the potential outcomes of our situation, I said, “Actually, we are not in a safe place. We need help.” They quickly dispatched both a police officer and a tow truck to our location.
We were incredibly thankful for the tow truck driver who risked his life and changed the tire so we could get to a store and buy a new set. Though we thought that would be the end of our crazy adventure, we discovered once we got back on the road that the delay put us in the path of the snowstorm. I’m from Michigan and have driven in plenty of snow… but this was bad. The roads were not getting cleared and we drove past two jack-knifed semi trucks, saw more than a dozen cars in ditches, and even watched a couple slide off the road in front or behind us.
We had to go about 35 miles per hour for a good deal of the time, so the 12 hour trip ended up taking us 18.5 stressful hours. When we finally dropped into our beds late that night, it was with a lot of prayers of thanksgiving.
You know – there’s something about crisis that brings important things into crystal clear focus. During the 18 hours of driving, I kept going back to my conversation with the emergency operator. In a way, we’re all speeding along the highway of life in our minivans… and once and a while we need to have a moment where life stops and someone gets very serious and asks us the hard question, “Are you in a safe place?”
I don’t mean physical safety, like whether or not you’ve got a security system to protect your family. And I don’t mean conservative safety, like whether you’ve got money in the bank to handle problems that come up. I mean… in the absolutely critical areas of your life… have you allowed yourself to live dangerously? Is your marriage in a safe place? Are you living dangerously in the amount of time you are investing with your kids? Are you playing games when it comes to diet, exercise, and your health? Are you ignoring or neglecting your spiritual life and your relationship with the Creator of the Universe?
Sometimes when we get asked these questions, just like me on the phone… we don’t want to be overdramatic. We don’t want to admit that we might be in danger. But this experience reminded me that we need to take the time to look around and recognize potential outcomes of the place we are in. We need to recognize the seriousness of our situation.
Are you in a safe place?
For me, the New Year is a great time to pull over the minivan and take a hard assessment of my life. To try to make 2013 about the important and not the urgent. And just like being stranded on the road… if I find areas in my life where I am in danger… there are really only two options: I need to move or get immediate emergency assistance. Hesitating is not an option.
At SignUpGenius, we hope that our site helps save you time in the “urgent” tasks of your life so that you can re-invest in the important areas of your life: your family, your church, and your community. We appreciate you all and wish you “safe travels” all through 2013.