A little scrap of a thought today ... It's late evening a few days before graduation. Antonia and I have been on a whirlwind goodbye tour at the Elite surrounded by friends for nearly four hours. What starts as a joke becomes quickly the most brilliant idea we've ever had, which may be the atmosphere talking, and we go see The Hunger Games at the latest showing, leaving the theater close to one in the morning.
(Someday, I'll write about that movie and the book series, but not today.)
On our way driving back to campus, we merge onto the highway and see a guy driving a pickup without its lights on, his cellphone in hand illuminating the cabin. It's raining. He's speeding. The whole thing is like a parody of itself, the commercials about safe driving unfolding before us.
We let him pass because it seems the wisest thing. Antonia and I start talking about what you do with books and movies that completely write God out of the story. We're in the thick of it, about to get on the major section of highway, when the guy in the pickup further down the road spins out of control and up onto the side of the highway, then back over four lanes of slippery wet pavement.
"Christ have mercy. Christ have mercy. Christ have mercy." I breathe it over and over again as I slow my own car. They are the first words out of my mouth. Words I learned from the liturgy. Prayer I learned from the liturgy. I raise my hand in the sign of peace, which you point toward those sitting too far away from you in church during the passing of the peace, the welcome, and I send peace toward the spinning car while I subconsciously ready myself to pull over and dial 911.
But there are ordinary miracles. The man gets control of his pickup. He sits stunned on the far left shoulder of the highway, hazards on, and then come his lights. The cars around us have slowed and no one, save for being rattled, has been hurt. After a moment, the driver of the pickup puts it into gear and lurches on into the night. We follow his lead and go about our way.
"Thanks be to God."
It's a few days later, on my way home from University. I'm on the highway when everything suddenly comes to a halt. I've kept a safe distance from the car in front of me, but the person behind me doesn't look like they have, so when I have to slam the breaks I let the words fly, "S---! S---! S---! S---! S---! S---! S---! S---!"
Everything was fine. The car behind me stopped in time and, except for a few seconds of inconvenience, there was no harm done.
How did I go from Christ have mercy to S---! so quickly? I suppose this is why, beyond the big and obvious things, we pray Christ, have mercy. Because my vagabond heart is still learning to trust enough that He'll hear my prayer for myself as much as He will for others. That I pray for His mercy for the big, big sins, as much as I pray it over the moments of insecure and untrusting profanity chains.
There's grace for the road. Some days I know it better than others. Mercy.