Okay, maybe I’m being sacrilegious, using that beautiful Advent O antiphon here. But for my son, who’s been anticipating the magical kingdom known as The Driver’s Seat, these last few weeks leading up to his DMV permit exam have been tests of patience, faith, and trust. And as usual, the one who got the biggest lesson was me.
“Driving is my lifelong dream,” my teen says. This is no exaggeration from a boy who learned to read by studying the Ford Mustang brochure. A boy who could tell you, at age four, that the 1996 Honda Accord that just passed us had Toyota wheel covers on it. Driving is more than a teen rite of passage for him. It’s a fulfillment of something he’s been awaiting since his first birthday, when his adoring aunt bought him that life-altering book: Richard Scarry’s Cars, Trucks, and Things That Go.
For me it’s a different story. Like most parents, I’m worried about the next few months now that my conquering hero has passed the permit test. But my concern goes a little deeper. Many years ago, my older brother (who my son is named after) was killed in a car crash involving a drunk driver. It’s something I think about almost every time I get behind the wheel. So I’ve known this day was coming, the day my firstborn takes that wheel in his own hands (hands that look strikingly like my brother’s). I’ve prepared for this day, prayed about it, talked with my husband about it, and yes, even gotten some therapy about it. Still the first day he drove to school with his dad wasn’t easy. It helped that we were prepared. I’d accompanied him on practice drives in parking lots and on some quiet neighborhood streets. He’d scored well on all his tests, and after all, he’d been planning for this day for years. So when he and my husband left early yesterday to give themselves plenty of time, I was able to smile and feel genuine happiness for him. I waved good-bye and whispered “God bless,” as my son maneuvered the car out of the garage, for once looking happy about going to school. I watched him back into the driveway, and then he was gone.
Back in the living room, I prayed my usual daily rosary. I expected my husband home in about twenty minutes. But as the clock ticked away, there was no sign of my husband. At 7 am, he was only about ten minutes late. No big deal, right? But several more minutes passed and still he wasn’t home. They probably took a longer, quieter route, I told myself. Maybe some detours to avoid the busier intersections. Still more minutes passed. I’d forgotten what rosary mystery I was on. I know it’s not a huge deal, and I kept telling myself it wasn’t. I tried to push the scary pictures out of my mind when suddenly another picture popped into my head, out of nowhere. A man, walking on water, holding his hand out to another man. The other man falters, “Lord, save me.” The man reaches out and catches the struggling one. Suddenly words popped into my head. “Jesus, I trust in you.”
Immediately I heard the garage door open. My husband was home. All was well.
Sure, I know it’s not a huge deal. But it’s small miracles that give us hope and faith. Small, quiet signs are what Advent is all about. We wait for a tiny baby born on a quiet night, with no one but his parents and some shepherds to watch over him. Yet angels sing all around them, and God in heaven smiles down.