“Hey, wanna go for a ride?”
I looked up at the sound of the familiar voice, startled to find him behind the wheel of a — how can I put it nicely? — clunker. Whatever its color used to be, I’d call it “rust” now. The car, if you can call it a car, was followed by a cloud of black smoke. I’m no expert on cars, but was it supposed to sound like it’s choking?
“Um …” I said, hoping to come up with a valid-sounding excuse for why I couldn’t. I glanced back toward the house. The kids were inside playing while my husband read a book. Wait, what was I doing outside by myself anyway?
“The kids are fine,” the driver said. “Hubby’s got things under control. C’mon. It’ll be fun.”
Did he say “fun”? Fun is what you promise when you pull up in front of someone’s house in a convertible on the first nice day of the year. I looked at my friend’s ride and pictured us broken down on the highway, in need of help and unable to get home to safety.
I hesitated further but my friend didn’t push me. He didn’t say a word. He didn’t have to. The man had saved my life and in return, he asked me to trust him in every situation. Even ones like this, where getting in the car made no logical sense.
Before I knew it, I was in the passenger seat. The smile on my friend’s face was as comforting as the car was unnerving. He put the car in gear and pulled away from the curb. I stole a glance at the house, wondering if this would be the last time I saw my family.
“So, where are we going?” I asked before we’d reached the end of the street.
“Check the glove box. There’s a map in there.”
I opened the panel on the dashboard in front of me and found a single sheet of paper folded in half. I unfolded it and turned it over in my hands.
“This is blank,” I said.
My friend just smiled.
“Is this some kind of joke?”
He continued driving.
I wadded up the “map,” threw it back in the glove box and slammed it closed.
My friend reached over and gently touched me on the shoulder. I shrugged him off but his hand remained.
“It’s going to be okay,” he said.
Tears formed as I stared out the window, trying not to hear the confidence in his voice, the gentleness that first drew me to him. I wanted to be mad that he’d duped me into taking a ride to nowhere with him in a sorry excuse for a car. I didn’t have time for this nonsense.
“What are you afraid of?”
He’d nailed it, like he always did. I wasn’t mad. Or annoyed. I was afraid. Why did he have to know me so well?
“You really want to know?” I said as the tears spilled out of my eyes.
“You know I do.”
Those words undid me. I covered my face with my hands and let the tears roll, the sobs escape, and somewhere in the noise of my agony, I heard my friend’s voice.
“I will never leave you or forsake you.”
“I am the same yesterday, today and forever.”
“I am the way, the truth and the life.”
My friend parked the car. I looked up and we were back in front of my house, almost as if we’d never left. I stepped out of the car and back into my life, where not everything makes sense all the time. I turned around to wave to my friend and found the car gone without a trace of smoke or rattling metal.
I sat on the front step, wondering if I’d just dreamt the whole thing. Or hallucinated it. Lack of sleep and too much coffee makes a person prone to both, I think.
The sound of my kids laughing and my husband provoking them to it drew me back inside. I glanced over my shoulder one more time and wondered if I was crazy.
“Mom, mom, you got mail!” my 4-year-old daughter announced with delight as she bounded toward me.
She handed me a postcard. I wrinkled my brow. It was blank except for four words: “Wish you were here.” No signature. No postmark. Not even a stamp.
I flipped the card over and dropped to my knees. The picture on the front was of a shiny red convertible zooming along a coastal highway on a sunny day.
A Bible verse flashed through my mind.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Forgive me, Lord. I don’t know where we’re going, but as long as You’re driving, I’m along for the ride.