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  • Kelli

Red Light, Go

It comes out of nowhere. The light turns green, I start to go, and there is a pickup coming at me out of the corner of my eye. He's blown the red light. I swerve a bit, but can't manage to avoid the impact of the truck, seemingly scraping metal on metal in slow motion foreverrrr across my van, pushing us into the intersection. My three kids, my mom and I all shaken up, but fine. We are dumped onto a street corner in a city we don't know, with the police woman telling us she can't give us a ride because there are too many of us. Our bags piled around us, we stand there, looking at my totaled van being towed away. Four hours away from home, what do I do now? I have $5 in my pocket, I can't afford a taxi.

Although we were fine -banged up, small glass shards in my forehead, small muscle pains in our backs - I can't shake that feeling I had on the corner of simply not knowing what to do. What does the mom do in that situation? Is there a What to Expect When You're Actually Parenting book I missed? Chapter 3: Car Accidents & How to Calm the Crap Down.

My personality jumps to fixing everything in those situations, which is what I did then. Can we fix it? Yes, we can! Next step? Call the rental car place. Next step? Call insurance. Next step? Everything's fine. Next step? Drive home. Next step? Cry.

Years later, driving a car still causes me to have a slow burn of anxiety. I slow down in weird spots, hesitating at yellow lights because I swear that person is going to turn in front of me. I have mini panic attacks driving to my in-law's house because I've read too many articles about how the highway by them has the highest deaths in America. I embarrassingly ask a friend who is driving us home late at night, "Are you sure you're awake? Please drive safely." I insist on feeling "secure" in my car, which apparently is a weird thing to say to the salesman, "Oooh... this one makes me feel like I'm in a cocoon!"

The police give me 0% liability in the crash. Not my fault. Not my fault. Except I think I would feel better if it was somewhat my fault. 100% NOT my fault means I could do nothing to avoid it. This is somehow worse. I thank God over and over my kids are safe. I am thankful. But I hesitate at lights. I know the situation could have been much worse. But I have anxiety when I drive on highways. I know it happened a few years ago now. But I worry about my kids driving on the busy roads by us.

Isn't it interesting... somewhat weird in some cases...what affects us ever after? Big trauma, small trauma, everything in between trauma. Except that it's all trauma. Trauma that means I can't keep things perfect. Trauma that I can't control another person's actions. Trauma means I'm not in control. Trauma. Deeply distressing experience. I am distressed I can't protect my kids at all times. I am distressed that big, huge devastating experiences happen to us all. I am distressed that I can't shake the feeling if something doesn't happen today, doesn't mean it won't happen tomorrow. I am distressed I don't know what the answer is. I am distressed that something is wrong with this world. I am distressed something is wrong with me.

Simplistically, it makes me feel better to jokingly sing, "Jesus, take the wheel." It makes me feel better to tell my husband, you know I'm going to panic when we get to 90/94, but you have to love me anyway, right? It makes me feel better to acknowledge the fear. Name it, claim it and all. It makes me feel better to choose my new car based on the word "cocoon."

In deeper, complex terms, it makes me hurt for my friends who have experienced trauma. It makes me hurt that we all have our areas of anxiety & worry. It makes me worry that you and I may not always feel God near us in those moments. It makes me concerned I still feel anxious driving, but yet, I'm a Christian. Why would I still worry if God is in control? It makes me feel angry I can't displace the occasional panic I feel.

It makes me realize how small my control is. It makes me realize I need God, because even if I don't understand the situation or Him, I understand He is there. I understand He gets my anxiety. I understand He understands. I understand there's a bigger picture. I understand my relatively "small" trauma can drive me to Him.

"Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you." Christians can use this to imply our worries should just be tossed once and then poof! Done! And somehow it twists around to make us feel guilty for that anxiety popping up again. If only we had believed harder. If only we had really meant it when we threw that anxiety away. I believe it means each time the anxiety hits, a solid response is to go to Him. I believe He can meet us in that worry every time. I believe He does, indeed, give us a peace that passes all understanding, but it may not be always my first response. Oh! Another car speeding through a light! Wow, do I feel peace! Thank God I have such awesome faith! (Thereby just putting myself back in as the "Controller" in the story.) I believe this is an ongoing process. One I need to continually work on and work through.

I understand I panic at yellow lights. I understand I can give those yellow lights to Him.


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