I got into my first real car accident this week, and unfortunately, it was definitely my fault. It happened on my routine drive to drop my oldest son off at preschool. Preschool mornings are always stressful at my house, and this particular morning was shaping up to be something special.
My two boys had been competing (okay, they were fighting) from the moment they woke up. Apparently who can get dressed the fastest, who gets to feed the dog, and who can eat from the one teenage mutant ninja turtle bowl that we own are life altering events. The nit-picking was soon replaced by name calling. Then finger-pointing turned into a wrestling match that started with giggles and ended in tears. Angry words were exchanged, time-outs were administered, and this all occurred before we actually sat down to eat our breakfast!
After breakfast it’s always a flurry of activity to get everything organized for the day and to get the four of us out the door and packed into the van. For whatever reason, I can never seem to get us loaded up in one trip. I usually shuttle the boys out first, then grab my plethora of bags on trip number two. By the third trip, I have my daughter in hand and we are ready to go. Of course, there are those not so rare occasions where I have to stop the vehicle midway down the driveway to run back into the house to grab something important I have left behind. This was shaping up to be one of those mornings.
I managed to get the boys out to the car and strapped into their seats without too much trouble, but I had hardly stepped away from the door when the spirited banter from earlier in the day picked back up.
“Be nice!” I called out, as I walked away, secretly rolling my eyes and whispering, “Yeah right,” under my breath.
As I made my second trip back out to the vehicle, arms full of bags, I heard my once innocent 2 ½ year old shout at his brother, “you stinky poo poo butt!” My 5 ½ year old quickly responded with an equally witty bathroom inspired response. After chastising the boys for their dirty mouths, I made the third trip into the house to grab my infant daughter. We were finally on our way, and I was pleased to see we would be on time for preschool.
I decided to take one of the back roads to the school. We had a small cushion of time, and it’s nice to have a little scenic variety. Besides, I wanted to check out the car wash just off the main road on this particular route. My van was covered in white road salt residue and it was only a matter of time before some spunky stranger wrote, “wash me,“ across its filthy exterior.
Speaking of filth, as we were driving to school I had a sudden impulse to talk to my children about their recent obsession with potty humor. Of course lecturing them would do no good, so I decided to try a different approach:
“Do you guys know that there is a verse in the Bible that talks about potty humor?”
“NO!” exclaimed my oldest son excitedly.
“Yeah, it says something like, ‘may the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be pleasing to you, Oh God.’”
Silence. I had obviously influenced them with my impeccable and timely scriptural admonition. But just to prove it, I asked a follow-up question.
“Do you know what that means?” I prodded.
“No.” The excitement was gone. The verse had apparently lacked the juicy language that by oldest son had expected.
Undeterred, I continued: “Let me explain! That verse means that we need to be careful how we speak. We need to make sure that our words are kind, and that they make others feel good. If we don’t have anything nice to say, we shouldn’t say it.”
And then I slyly threw in, “Oh, and it also means we shouldn’t talk potty talk because it isn’t very nice and it can hurt people’s feelings.”
“Ok, mom,” came the rote response from the back of the van.
Alright, maybe my interpretation of the scripture was a bit of a stretch. But I didn’t think it was too far from the original intent of the author to be a problem! I mean, if he had been a stay-at-home mom with three little kids, he totally would have been tracking with me.
About this time, we were driving up to one of the car washes on the side of the road. I knew there were two on this route. One was a self-serve and the other was a drive through. I stared intently out my side window for a better look. Is this the self-serve station? I couldn’t tell just by driving by. I guess I’ll have to look closer on the way home, I thought to myself as we went by.
I turned my attention back to the road just in time to see the break-lights of the car in front of me. I quickly realized the car wasn’t just slowing down, but it had come to a complete stop. This is, of course, the normal response one makes when confronted by a RED LIGHT!!!!
Everything happened so fast and yet it felt like we were in slow motion. I slammed on my brakes, but my tires slid on the icy road. Then I desperately swerved, but not enough to avoid the unmistakable sound of metal on metal. My big boxy 1998 Chevy Astro mini-van slammed into the Toyota Avalon in front of me.
Having never been in an accident like this before, I felt the need to FREAK OUT a little. I turned onto a side street, put on my flashers, and checked to make sure the kids were all right. Fighting back tears, I quickly explained what had just occurred. For some reason I also felt the need to blurt out: “And what mommy just said was not pleasing to God! I’m sorry guys.” Who has the potty mouth now?!
“What did you say?!” I once again had the full attention of the back seat driver.
“Never mind what I said! Is everyone okay?!”
Isn’t it funny how life throws those little experiences our way? Do we really practice what we preach? Am I modeling the kind of behavior that I want to see my kids live out, even in stressful circumstances?
In the grand scheme of things, is a random curse word going to make or break the character of my children? Of course not! But it is a good reminder to me about the way I choose to live my life. Are the words of MY mouth and the thoughts of MY heart pleasing to God? And will my children notice a difference in me?
I’m happy to say that the accident wasn’t serious. The light damage caused to our vehicles is nothing that can’t be repaired. However, I do feel terrible about hitting a little old lady (yeah, that’s right, did I forget to mention that I plowed into a grandma?). I think she’s going to be plenty sore, but not too worse for the wear. At least I hope so!
The accident I had was minor, but it reminded me of something major. Focus matters. I really only stared at that car wash for a moment, but it was long enough for me to miss the red light that was right in front of my face. My mind was distracted, and my focus was misguided and the end result was not pleasant. Could the same be true in other areas of my life?
The truth of the matter is that if we are not intentional about the things we focus our attention on, the consequences can be pretty devastating. The damage to our relationships or other aspects of our life can be a lot more severe than a dented front bumper. And the time required and the cost spent to repair that damage is often significantly more than an overnight stay at the auto body shop.
Obviously, I will be a lot more intentional on the roadways in the future. But my desire is to also be more intentional in my day-to-day life. I don’t want to be distracted by things that don’t matter and be misguided from the things that do. I truly want my focus to be centered on God and for my life to reflect the things that would please Him and be a blessing to others. And hopefully, in the future, I won’t have to apologize to my kids for stupid choices made or my own potty mouth!