“You are the God who performs miracles;
you display your power among the peoples.” Psalm 77:14
My daily commute back then was a good 45 minutes, mostly interstate, from the very heart of the small town where we lived, to the urban center of Milwaukee, where I taught and went to school. I enjoyed that daily trip. Forty-five minutes of morning news is a good way to start the day, and the traffic never really picked up until the last fifteen. , when I got to the city.
I don’t know how to describe the climactic conditions that particular morning, other than to say that, exactly where the suburban traffic thickened, I hit something akin to black ice, hardly visible but startlingly evident beneath the tires.
Without warning, my car did the sweetest little 360 you can imagine. Not fast, but in an almost delightful slow motion. Had I not been in the middle of a three-lane freeway, I might well have enjoyed it. When I remember it now, in fact, that complete turnabout seems almost elegant.
Miraculously, my car ended up going south, the direction I was traveling anyway. I’d accomplished an almost perfect two-ton pirouette. Me and the station wagon simply decided to stop for a moment and take a turn on the interstate dance floor. From above, it was a thing of beauty, I’m sure.
I remember being shocked, not so much at having lost control—that was too scary to allow me to imagine anything. Things had gone completely out of my control, and I shook so hard I had all I could do to hold the wheel. But it was flat-out unbelievable that I just kept on going down my merry way as if nothing had happened at all, that pirouette spun out of nowhere, almost whimsically.
Twenty minutes later I was in my office, my hands still shaking far too much to write or type. Both accidents and near-misses leave me trembling. I didn’t put a scratch on the car that morning, but I was shaking enough to have totaled it—I swear.
The janitor on my office floor was an odd character right out of a Flannery O’Connor story—a big talker missing an arm, wearing instead a prosthesis with a hook, his good arm heavily tattooed, roughhewn, an oddity amid university offices.
It was early—maybe 7:15, and I had an 8:00 class. I had to tell someone, so I told Robert the janitor, who stood there with a wastebasket under his good arm as I spun my fingers in the air, replaying the mad highway dance. “And I ended up right back there in the right lane of traffic, my snoot going south—it was amazing,” I told him.
He waited a moment, eyes flashing. “Get on your knees, man,” he told me. “You’d better thank Saint Christopher.”
Honestly, I’d never even thought of what had happened as a miracle choreographed by St. Christopher or God almighty. It had not dawned on me to thank my lucky stars for the fact that I’d been able to pull out of traffic alive that morning.
When he said it, I felt cuffed by the crazy janitor’s faith.
Or my lack of it.
That one-armed janitor was right—I should have been on my knees. I believe in miracles—spectacular and otherwise. I do. I believe in stupendous supernatural happenings that make no sense. God occasionally steps into our lives to pull a fast one. Sometimes bullets get snagged by pocket-sized Bibles. Sure.
I should have thanked my lucky stars, my God the holy choreographer.
As Asaph says, “You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power” right there on the everyday paths of our lives.