t snows in Minnesota like it does all across the upper Midwest. We northerners like to think we handle it so much better than those in southern states who run for cover at the forecast of a dusting, and to some extent we do. But we are not exempt for fender benders in a parking lot or multicar pileups on our interstates. Sadly, some of these events are more than nuisances or cause for insurance premium spikes. Some result in severe bodily injury, others in death.
In 2015 across the United States 35,092 otherwise healthy human beings died as a result of a moving vehicle. Single vehicle events accounted for a whopping 55% of all deaths, the kind of event that happens on a snowy road when simply driving from one destination to another.
Shortly after we moved from Michigan to Minnesota, all six of us were headed home in our full-size conversion van in the early morning hours along snowy Interstate 94 in southern Wisconsin. I hit an icy patch at 45 mph, slid off the road down into a wooded ravine where the van hit a massive oak as it rolled on its roof leaving us suspended by our seatbelts. Scary doesn’t describe the moments. By God’s grace we all walked away without a scratch. The van was totaled, but so what.
Yesterday, others around Minneapolis / St. Paul were not so fortunate. A light snow event during rush hour snarled traffic all across the metro. Nearly all made it home, but not everyone. Some suffered severe injuries requiring hospitalization, and others died. Of course, a snowstorm is not necessary to cause a vehicular death. There were 94 such deaths in Hawaii in 2015. I suspect nor more than a few were snow related.
John Newton of Amazing Grace fame wrote many texts set to tune. In a hymn that rejoices at the church gathering on the Lord’s Day, Newton pens, Safely through another week God has brought us on way and celebrates with the church God’s providence to gather the church together once again. Other writers have used the phrase “safely home” anticipating the arrival of God’s people to hearth and home. Some in mariner villages sang of God's grace in bringing the ships to “the harbor safe at home.” Safe arrival under God’s care must never be taken for granted and should always be a cause for thanksgiving.
Our family experienced this again last night as one of us slid off a glazed highway at highway speeds. When the tow truck dropped the vehicle in our driveway and we huddled in the kitchen, we held hands and thanked God that the damage was to sheet metal and not bones, muscles, and organs.
Our family’s usual practice is to pray when we arrive almost anywhere after a drive. At the end of the day, one of us often thanks God for his care of us during the day. 99.9% of those days we know nothing of the “what ifs” and “might have beens.”
We simply thank God for his protection not really realizing how often we were under God’s guard throughout the day. During the summer and around the holidays, I will welcome back to our worship those who have been away on road trips to the cabin, the Mountain West, or a distant wedding celebration. During pastoral prayer, we pray for those away from us, asking God for their safe return. When we see them again, we thank the Lord for his care along the way. In a world dominated by sin and cursed by death, that God directs our steps, covers our mistakes, and prevents calamities prompts in us praise each time we embrace after the briefest of absences.
When God brings you together again after a day away at work or school, when God brings you home again after a short trip to the grocery store, when God gathers us together again on the Lord’s Day, make that gathering a time to look upward in praise for God’s goodness to bring you safely home.
As always, I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.