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Black Ice

Last Saturday night we left the Outback in Wayne around 8:30 p.m. It had been snowing with light accumulation throughout the day but the snow had stopped, the roads were clear and there was a light rain falling. Earlier in the day it took me almost two hours to drive to Montclair and back when the snow was a bit heavier, the roads covered with a few inches of slushy precipitation and the driving far more treacherous. We had seen one car spin out into a guard rail and another avoiding collision with a tree after spinning out while attempting to make a left hand turn. So when we were heading home at night I was more relaxed about the weather and things seemed a lot safer than earlier in the day. At least they seemed that way.

Five minutes into our drive home, heading towards Oakland up through “Breakneck Road” (seriously, that is the name), we turned the bend in the road when Susan suddenly saw something and yelled “Watch out!” At first my eyes couldn’t figure out what the strange alignment of lights were when we quickly realized it was a car flipped over . I jumped out of the car and immediately slipped on the ice covering the black top. I hustled over towards the car where two people were helping a young man off to the side of the road. He had just crawled out of the window of the flipped car and amazingly, miraculously, was unhurt. He was in shock, explaining that he was heading home from work and just lost control of the car, not realizing that particular stretch of road was covered with “black ice”. Thankfully no other cars were passing by at the moment he began skidding out. We were less than a minute behind, the first people on the scene coming from the opposite direction were about 30 seconds. It could have been a lot worse.

Black ice is a dangerous condition. Admittedly I was a lot more focused and careful when I was driving in the afternoon and was fully cognizant of the hazardous driving conditions. I could see the snow and slush, drove extra slowly and was in 100% concentration mode. But when we left the restaurant the roads looked clear, I was not thinking about dangerous conditions and I was not expecting anything unusual to occur. It is easy to be diligent and aware when the danger signals are high. Its also easy to let your guard down just a little bit when there seems to be no sign of danger. Seems to be, no sign of danger.

On a practical level I would say don’t take driving for granted. Always be on your guard, always be focused, always be prepared. Don’t let yourself be distracted by phone calls, texts, conversations, the radio, being in a hurry, driving fast or anything else that may take your concentration off the road. But let it be a lesson for us spiritually as well. How easy it is to let our guard down, to be unaware of the dangers that are lurking in the shadows. Attitudes and behaviors that creep in and in an instant can cause us to “lose control”, to “spin out”, to “flip over.” We allow a little compromise here and a little sin there. We find ourselves in spiritual accidents because we are unaware of the emotional and spiritual “black ice” that surrounds us. Our souls become distracted, our values divided, our priorities destabilized, our disciplines and practices relaxed.

We are most vulnerable when things don’t look dangerous, when everything seems normal and good. Especially after times of difficulty and challenge when we had to be focused and attentive; Once the storm passes we then tend to become a little lazy and soft. I can hear the words of Jesus:
“Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back–whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’ ” (Mark 13:35-37).

There will always be “black ice” out there, it doesn’t matter what time of day or what time of year…Winter, spring, summer, fall (I know what all you James Taylor fans are thinking)….The warning is the same….”Watch!”

What do you think?
How does it make you feel?