3 drains and a prayer

It was Monday, 6.47 am. I’d been walking for about 15 minutes. Panting. Glad to be on a flat stretch of road. Glad to pause.

I saw a string of lights on the road beneath the overpass I was on. The headlights of cars funnelling towards the road shoulder.

I went to get a better look. A white van was lying on its roof. Spread across two lanes of the soon-to-be-very-busy three-lane road.

Policemen were directing traffic.

There was no activity around the van. There were no signs of anyone waiting for an ambulance. I supposed those in the van had been rescued – it didn’t look like anyone had been seriously injured.

I snapped a photo and resumed my walk. My mind filled with thoughts.

Who owns the van? What was it used for? Who was driving? Who was in it? Where was it heading? What phone-calls had been made? What was on the minds of those in the funnelled cars?

I thought of the times I’d been in accidents.

50 years ago. My father was driving, with my mother beside him and my brother and I in the back. My father dozed off. The car came to a halt in a drain near Muar. Villagers pulled us out. A doctor driving home after the night shift stopped to help. An ambulance took my parents away, covered in blood. Dazed, we wondered if they were dead. They weren’t.

40 years ago. I was driving my sister and her family from London to Newcastle-on-Tyne. I lost control. The car came to a halt in a drain. A passing driver stopped to assist us, total strangers. Astonishingly, there was no damage to the hired car. I drove it out. We continued our journey.

30 years ago. I was driving to a factory inspection. On an unfamiliar road. In heavy rain. My windscreen wipers failed. I pulled onto what I thought was the wet road shoulder. It wasn’t. It was a swollen monsoon drain. The road had no shoulder! I had driven my car into the drain. I wasn’t injured. The car was dented, filled with water. Passing motorists stopped and helped. My car was towed to a workshop. All good.

40 minutes passed. I was back at the spot. I took another photo. I wondered how the driver and passenger of the van would remember the day. I thanked God for shocking me and saving me so often in my life.

I thought of all the troubles my driving has caused others. LORD, forgive me. LORD, thank you for those who stop to help strangers, at much inconvenience to themselves. LORD, make me like them. LORD, thank you for giving us second chances. LORD, thank you for using accidents to show us how our actions and inactions impact others – and for the prayer we repeat every Sunday:

Most merciful God, we confess that we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves. We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart: we have not loved our neighbours as ourselves. For the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your holy name. Amen

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