"The Lord will watch over your coming and going, both now and evermore."
Every good story has a hero, and we tell the story to honour the hero. This is a story about the loving God and how He has miraculously protected me and others in the last week.
Our story starts with a plan to take a group of students to Cluny Abbey in France, to talk about Church-planting movements and to explore the call of God on our lives. In this plan, I would drive us all there in our family minibus, an aging ex-taxi with close to 400000 miles on the clock. While this plan was still in its infancy, and known only to a couple of staff members at OCC, a friend from the Church approached me one day and said that she'd had a dream and didn't know what to do about it. In that dream, I was driving my family minibus through France when the brakes failed and I lost all control of it. She had no idea about the planned trip, so this seemed to have the fingerprints of God about it.
I took the bus in for its MOT a month early, and asked the mechanic to pay particular attention to the brakes. After its most expensive MOT to date, the mechanic sat down and talked me through the fixes - no fewer than three brake components had failed the MOT, all in ways that did not currently affect driving, but could have become problematic at any stage. I told him about the dream and that I thought God was watching out for me - he was clearly surprised and didn't know what to do with the story (I hope we'll get to talk more!)
After some other unreliable behaviour, we eventually traded in the bus for a newer one, and thinking back to the word I had it mechanically checked, put on four new tyres, and the trip to Cluny went ahead as planned. On the last French leg of the journey, with 1000 miles under our belts and only a couple of hundred to go, we stopped off from a motorway service station for coffee. As we drove off, I saw a poorly-judged overtake and in that moment I heard God tell me that I would see a motorway accident while still in France. I didn't quite know what to make of that, and for the next half-hour I wondered if I really had heard God or had just been reacting to the dangerous manoeuvre I'd seen.
Suddenly, without warning, I saw a car swerve hard, just two vehicles ahead. The driver nearly hit the central reservation, over-compensated on the steering, and shot across three lanes of traffic. She hit the nearside barrier and bounced off it, scattering car parts all over the road. Finally, crossing all three lanes of traffic again, she slammed almost head-on into the concrete central reservation and spun to a stop. At the very first swerve, God's warning came back to mind and I was able to stop quickly and safely, and we came to a halt in the perfect position to shield the driver from the traffic behind. Four new tyres and good sound brakes had enabled us to avoid any impact ourselves.
Not only had we been able to stop in a protective place, but with a car full of students and student leaders, we were able to call for help, clear the most dangerous debris and direct traffic until the police and paramedics arrived. I got to sit with the woman, who seemed unhurt apart from some minor lacerations, but was understandably in shock, and help her as she processed what had just happened. Although she needed to spend most of the next half-hour on the phone to friends and insurance companies, I was able to say four key words to her - words that I hope will stay with her, "Dieu vous a protégé" (God protected you).
I often hear stories of people in our community responding to small promptings from the Lord: it's rare that we have the privilege to see so clearly the pitfalls that God is guiding us past and the divine encounters into which He is leading us. What an amazing God we have, and how true it is when the psalmist writes,
"The Lord will keep you from all harm –
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and for evermore."