This is not actually a rose

This is the fourth Sunday of Lent, and as it happens, the sole moment in this somber season where we are encouraged to contemplate joy and hope. This is sometimes represented by a golden rose, and though I couldn’t find one of those, these little blossoms were just as eloquent.

I don’t speak much about my faith, or my religious beliefs. Indeed I suspect it would shock more than a few people to realize I have them at all. I do. They haven’t remained static over the years, and I have spent long days wandering in the darkness, but I have never lost the persistent sense that I am the beloved (if often wayward) child of a benevolent creator. I haven’t always known how to interpret, let alone communicate what that means for me, but I have decided to try.

On January 2nd of the year 2000, I was driving home from Seattle with my then husband and our 7 month old daughter. We had spent the new year with his family, and were headed home on an utterly typical rainy Sunday. As we passed through Kelso, I encountered some ruts in the freeway that had filled with rainwater. My speed was probably close to 60mph and I was in the fast lane when the tires lost contact with the pavement and we began to hydroplane. I lost control of the car completely. No amount of pulling the wheel this way or that had any effect on the motion of the vehicle. What began was an interminable moment of complete silence as the car spun to the right and rotated 360 degrees across all three southbound lanes until we collided with the retaining wall on the far right shoulder. It was a substantial bump, and though the car was disabled, none of us were injured.

While I was initially just relieved that we were all unharmed, it soon began to sink in what had really happened. We sat there by the side of the freeway for another hour, waiting for the tow truck to arrive, for the police officer that came to help us to agree that we were allowed to leave the scene. All that time I sat watching the highway, transfixed, as semi-trucks, triple trailer long haul vehicles, passenger cars, minivans, all thundered by. At no point during that long hour was there ever a break in traffic like the one present as we spun across Interstate 5. At no other point was there a moment when we would not have been killed by the circumstances we skidded into.

My reaction to this was one of profound panic. I had almost killed us. It was my fault; I had been driving, I was to blame. Nervermind that it was clearly a combination of the weather, the condition of the road, and a not-as-straight-as-it-could-be frame on the reconstructed Subaru we’d just bought; no, unquestionably, it was my fault.

As I contemplated all of the implications of my having Almost Killed Us All, I arrived at some strange conclusions. I decided I ought not continue to nurse my infant daughter, since I was unreliable enough to almost cause her death, I did not want to be her sole source of sustenance anymore. I decided I shouldn’t drive anymore, even though my husband readily acknowledged I was the safer, more cautious, and less accident prone of the two of us. I was utterly in misery, and I did not know how I could live with myself for having Almost Killed Us All, no matter what anyone said to reassure me.

One night, as I sat awake ruminating and feeling as awful as I have ever felt, a small quiet tendril of a thought began to awaken in me. That rather than this being some evidence that I was irresponsible, or that I had done something careless, that this was something else entirely; this was the hand of God having intervened directly to enact a miracle.

And as soon as this thought crossed my weary and troubled mind, I knew it for Truth, and my life has never been the same since.

This is not to say, that I have not forgotten that this happened, or what it awoke in me. I was talking to someone about my relationship with God just recently, and when he asked me about when I have felt close to, or touched by the Presence in my life, I told him an entirely different (though no less True) story. It wasn’t until I was sitting in mass this morning, looking up at the dome in St Patrick’s that I remembered this revelation, this miracle.

And there have been other moments, quieter things, that have confirmed the existence of a loving and beneficent God. But they too are hard to express, complicated to articulate and imbue with the proper sense of Truth. To explain how they have changed me.

What I do know, is that when I am still, and open myself as wholly as I can, I am always able to feel the presence of God. The sense of his hand in my life is palpable whenever I can pause and choose to see it and to feel it.

And so I have been pausing, and practicing the sacred work of opening myself to that awareness. That is the core of my faith; that all the love, grace, and peace that can seem so hard to find has always been there, waiting for me to receive it.

So hope and joy indeed, blossom there.