The long absences from my family during 1979 had created a real strain on my marriage, and the one constant that helped relieve some of the tension was that I called Cynthia every night at exactly 8:00.
It was a cold and gloomy November day in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where I had just concluded an advertising meeting with the local Dodge dealers. It was late afternoon, and as I glanced at the clock on the dash, I noted I should have plenty of time to get back to the Birmingham Sheraton by 8:00pm.
As I approached Detroit, night had fallen; it was raining and trying to snow. I realized I was no longer on Route 96 but somehow had gotten on Route 696. Everything was unfamiliar and the signs hard to read. I got confused and started to panic. I spotted an exit, Telegraph Road, and took it. Traffic was at a standstill. It was 7:10pm. I gritted my teeth, yanked on the wheel on yelled, “Come on, Lord—after the year I’ve had the least you can do is get me back to the hotel by eight!”
The radio gibberish annoyed me, the windshield wipers frustrated me, and the gridlocked traffic angered me. How was I going to get back by eight? I was lost!
I leaned forward on the steering wheel trying to read the signs. I turned right on Thirteen Mile Road and painfully inched my way to Woodward Avenue. It was 7:30pm. Should I stop at a pay phone? Traffic seemed to be opening up. I pressed hard on the gas, racing in and out of traffic, looking for something familiar.
“Why don’t you do something, Lord?” I hissed. “I need to get back to the hotel by eight!”
I needed to turn right, but when, where? “Just get me back to the hotel by eight,” I yelled out loud, “SHOW ME WHERE TO TURN RIGHT!” Several streets flashed by, and I unexpectedly made a hard right turn down a dimly lit residential street named Wimbilton. The further I drove, the more alarmed I became. The street came into a T intersection where you could only turn left or right. “THIS CAN’T BE RIGHT!” I shouted. I jammed on the gas, turned right, spinning the wheels of my Dodge Charger on the wet leaves—more house, more streets. I turned left on to another winding residential street named Dorchester. Huge trees straddled each side of the street making it appear like a long dark tunnel. It was 7:45pm. And I was hopelessly lost.
A sense of betrayal swept through me. What was happening to me and my family was unjust, unfair. I stood hard on the brakes, the car slid to the right, bouncing off the curb, and came to a stop. I could see no plan through my anger. I sat in silence for a second and then snapped. I got out of the car, slammed the door, and shook my fist at heaven. “ANSWER ME!” I demanded of God. “YOU USELESS F****** NO GOOD SON OF A B*****! I AM DOING MY PART, AND YOU ARE DONG NOTHING! ARE YOU EVEN THERE? DO YOU CARE?” I stormed around the car, venting all my frustration and anger at God until I was totally spent.
I wearily got back in the car and looked in the rearview mirror. I was a pitiful sight. I was hurt, afraid, and had been betrayed—afraid that I believed in a God who wasn’t there or, worse yet, didn’t care. The building dam of pressure over the last year burst. I started to cry great, choking sobs. Then it became strangely quiet. I lost track of time and where I was. It seemed like nothing was ever going to happen again. It was a defining moment in my life. I had to place my trust and hope in an invisible God, or there was no hope.
I asked for forgiveness. It was 7:55pm. I resigned myself to the fact that if I didn’t get back to the hotel by eight, it would be okay.
I started the car and began to slowly drive to the end of the street. It emptied into a large, lit parking lot that was part of a shopping mall. In front of me was a loading dock with a sign that read “Delivery Trucks Only.” The clock on the dash read 8:00pm. I was at the service entrance of the Birmingham Sheraton.
Have you ever felt hopelessly lost? Order the God of Hope book today to learn more about your place in God’s plan!
“I trust in you, my God! Show me the right path, O LORD; point out the road for me to follow.” Psalm 25:2,4 (NLT)
I was convinced that God wanted me to leave Chrysler and began looking for another job in the fall of 1979. I had signed a six-month lease on a home in Detroit that was up June 30. I had sent out hundreds of resumes. After four months, I had one interview with a small Japanese company in Torrance, California. I was running out of time. It was early February, a bitterly cold, snowy morning when I pulled into the parking lot of the Birmingham airport and did something crazy.
(To be continued next Monday in “This is Crazy!”)