It was in the wee hours of the morning and still dark outside. We’d been traveling non-stop for over 18 hours except to refuel with gas because we were young and impatient and could manage to stay up all night driving.
Papa was a young soldier man and we were stationed at a military base in Oklahoma. I don’t remember when exactly it was, but definitely before we had our children so probably around 1979 or ’80. Traveling by car, we had spent vacation time visiting with our families in Pennsylvania and were heading back to Oklahoma on the long, 20-some hour drive.
Really it was foolish, driving straight through the way we often did but we wanted to spend every moment we could with our families. His family lived a good four-hour drive away from my folks, so we tried to divide our time equally with everyone.
We were tired and weary of being in the car, but still we pushed on because hubby’s leave ended the next day. No time to check into a motel for the night. So on we continued.
Hubby was driving on that divided highway somewhere in between Tulsa and Oklahoma City around 3 a.m. Car rides make me sleepy even when I’m not exhausted so I had already fallen asleep, my head tilted against a pillow smashed against the passenger side car window.
I groggily awakened to a strange sound – a steady, almost rhythmic whooosh, whooosh kind of sound. And when I opened my eyes, we were driving down the grassy medial strip on the highway instead of on the smooth pavement at a high rate of speed. Hubby had also dozed off and the swishy noise of the tall prairie grass rustling underneath our car had awakened and warned me that something wasn’t right.
My cry of alarm jolted him awake and he quickly righted the steering wheel easing us back onto the roadway. I was wide awake now and fearful that it would happen again. We counted the miles to the next exit or rest area and when we finally spotted one, we wisely pulled over and changed drivers.
I’ve often thought about what could have happened that time so long ago. The highway wasn’t heavy with traffic, yet there were lots of tractor trailer trucks traveling in both directions. What if we had completely crossed the highway and hit one head-on? What if that medial strip hadn’t been prairie grass but had been cement jersey barriers instead? What if I hadn’t awakened in time?
I believe that God protected us on that early morning drive and it was He who caused me to hear the grass and awaken just in time. So today, more than 30 years later, I’m thankful for His guiding hand and I’m also thankful for divided highways.
“We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts.” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer