November 12, 2013


The summer morning dawned gloriously, promising a gorgeous start to a wonderful weekend. Our son had just turned 20, and my husband had managed to arrange for him to join us for a weekend together on Tangier Island, a quaint fishing community in the middle of the Chesapeake. Our boat to the island was scheduled for pickup at a marina several hours away, and we had just enough time to make it after collecting him and his luggage from the airport.

Friday morning congestion in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, however, was a little worrisome. Added to the traffic delays was a little excitement at a crowded red light when a heavy-duty dump truck tried to come alongside with its center, heavy-load tires on fire. So you can understand why, when the traffic finally thinned and we left the city behind, I sat back and set my cruise at 60 to try to make up a little time.31 1 3

I cannot remember what made me check, but on an almost-deserted straight stretch of the four-lane divided highway, I realized that my brake was not disengaging the cruise control. The car would slow somewhat, but would immediately begin accelerating again. I tested the brakes several times in disbelief; then reverted to the Off button on the cruise control. Nothing worked! A bit of panic began to edge in, and when my husband suggested I try to pull the car over and turn the engine off, I jumped right in with both feet on the brakes.

Thankfully, the brake was able to overpower the engine enough to pull the car off the road and onto the grass. Though the engine complained when I quickly jammed it into park and turned the key, a short call to our mechanic enabled us to locate the cable at fault under the hood and allowed us to proceed on our way, albeit without cruise control.

In reflecting on the experience, I realized that life has a few parallels to my story. Deadlines and delays, distractions, and disruptions all tempt us to push the limits. To-do lists and meeting schedules fill our calendars, and it is easy to end up barreling down life’s road unaware that we are on course for a collision.

Despite the excitement and delay that summer’s day, the timing turned out perfectly. We pulled into the marina just as the charter arrived and enjoyed a delightful weekend kayaking around the islands and exploring the salt marsh and beaches, village homes, and shops.

Our mechanic’s inspection later revealed that the end of the cable had begun to fray, allowing it to catch in the mechanism. Hindsight also brought the realization that a quick kick into neutral would probably have been a better recourse and spared the engine a little grief in the process.

That aside, my reflections brought a few other conclusions into focus: First of all, when the pace picks up and your day begins to take on a life of its own, take a moment to remember that things can begin to fray even when everything is apparently under control. Second, thank the Lord for every reminder He sends to check your cruise control, and be prepared, if need be, to shift everything into neutral and jump on the brakes with both feet.

“Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, . . . above everything” (Ps. 46:10, Message).*

* Texts credited to Message are from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.