I was miles away before I realized what I had forgotten.
My thoughts were preoccupied by a grocery list, a letter to mail, a song pulsing through the mini-van speakers. I drove along the highway under mid-afternoon sun, with daily distractions and songs of praise collaborating to put space between me and The Thing I had forgotten.
Then, in one jarring moment, memory corrected me. I remembered The Thing I had forgotten:
My car accident.
I have been driving past the accident scene two times a week for the past three months, to and from the campus where I teach. Each time I drove by, I would relive the moment of impact near a towering line of leafless trees, next to an open field of harvest stubble.
I would recall the oncoming car spinning into my lane. The crush of steel on steel. The spinning. The air-bag.
Then I’d remember the silence …
Then I’d remember the pain …
But on this new day, the memory had temporarily floated into a sea of forgetfulness. I held my hand to my mouth in delightful surprise, and spoke aloud: “Thank you, God.”
Maybe this was the way past fear — the passage of time, a series of distractions and a fading memory of pain.
And then came this:
“Go back and face your fear.”
“Fear not, for I am with you.” — Isaiah 41:10
I didn’t go back that day. It wasn’t time, for duties of home waited. Facing my fear would come another day.
Today was that day.
I parked in an old farm driveway, next to the line of trees, now beginning to bud. I grabbed my camera, and stepped out into unknown territory, inching toward the place where fear took root. One foot in front of the other, this is how I’d confront fear: by walking straight into it.
Stepping over a log, and into a ditch, my feet kicked at corn leaves and brushed through crab-grass. The wind tore across a field, blowing dirt at me this time, instead of the snow that blasted through the broken window of my crushed Toyota Sienna van three months earlier.
Then came the urgent, inaudible whisper in my spirit: Here. Right here now. Stop.
No, not yet, I replied, for my van landed farther up the way. That’s where I need to go …
No, right here, I tell you.
So I’m standing there, in an Iowa ditch with cars passing by at 55 miles per hour, stilled by a voice that no ears could hear, not even my own. But why?
I look down to see a glint of silver shining up at me. At my feet is the Toyota emblem from the front of my crashed van.
And then, just a few steps away, lay more pieces: chunks of my tan-colored van intermingled with fist-sized maroon pieces of the other car.
I scooped up three pieces of my van, and the emblem. With newness of spring around me, I stood speechless, except for this small offering: “O, praise You.”
I retraced my steps to my new van, with four pieces of junk and a new bit of courage — all found in a ditch on Highway 75.
I brought the pieces home tonight, and as I sit here with fingertips to keyboard, I pause to cup these souvenirs of grace in grateful hands …
Overcoming my fear had nothing to do with forgetting that this happened to me. Rather, overcoming my fear had everything to do with remembering He held me through it.