Like most Mondays, I met my friend Jeanette at Panera last week at 5:45 am. We picked up coffee, prayed for safe travel, and began our three-hour drive to prison, where we teach scripture.
We drove on I-355 and merged onto I-55 to head downstate. But as the car crossed the divider, it must have hit an icy patch. The car swung out of control and shot towards the right side of the highway, across three lanes. As Jeanette fought to swing the car back to the center, the car zigzagged left, right, left, and then a final right. . . To my horror, we were flying off the road, on two wheels! The front of the car, which was airborne, nose-dived into a deep ditch. We smacked the ground, hard. Now mired in a deep muddy ditch, we were facing oncoming traffic. Trucks and cars hurtled past us on the highway, just a few feet above us.
We were not hurt, but we were stuck. We tried to start the car and get it moving, but it was useless. The wheels were buried in mud. A car stopped by to check on us, and the driver told us to call the State Police and a tow truck. That wasn’t an option.We had to get out of that ditch in five minutes if we wanted to make it to the prison. The women were waiting for us, and we had a great lesson to share. Some of these inmates were hungry to learn more about scripture.
We prayed desperately and then started the car again, hoping for an answer. Instead, the wheels dug deeper into the mud. Then a huge truck stopped on the road and its driver called down to us. He told us he had a rope. He tied it onto a hook under the car, and in a minute, his truck was pulling us up on a 45-degree incline. He shouted for us to drive. I wondered which was worse: sliding backwards into the ditch, or charging forward into oncoming highway traffic. We climbed up and somehow, the car swung sharply until we straightened out, a few feet from the edge of the ditch. We emptied our purses and waved our helper over to offer him every dime we had, but he declined.
We thanked God and shakily drove to arrive at the prison at 9:01a.m. As soon as we entered the classroom, our students pointed to our mud-caked shoes and clothes. So we shared our morning with them. Our prison sisters expressed amazement. They were surprised that we would drive so far to teach them. They appreciated how desperately we wanted to show up.
We affirmed the theme of our class lessons: that we must always work as if for God. We also talked about what God had taught us that morning: That in life, we can often end up in trouble. In the ditch. Often it is our own sin and fault, but sometimes it is not. And if we are stuck and helpless, we can pray for God to deliver us. We asked for the wheels to move, but God’s ways were not our ways. Instead, he sent us a kind man and a rope. Our part is to pray to God and trust He has heard us.
The day ended as another great prison Monday. Thank God for allowing us to serve these sisters. I knew in coming to prison, we would often see God’s hand at work. I did not expect our first sighting to be when we were spinning out of control on the highway, flying on two wheels. Next Monday we are going to change lanes very early from the 355 to the I-55 and stay far away from the ditches. But should we end up in the ditch again, we know there will be a rope.