By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published September 5, 2021
Most folks planning a trip are excited about the prospects. It’s an adventure! It will be fun!
Then there are people like me, who ponder the possible disasters that could occur.
Each disaster must be carefully studied with potential outcomes delineated. On the big day, these people buckle their seat belts with the steely resolve of a soldier going into battle.
Recently I decided to travel from Atlanta to Macon to visit my brother-in-law. I’d done this once before and the drive had been pleasant, as I’d taken Highway 23 through pleasant little towns like Locust Grove and McDonough.
My trusty smartphone with its GPS was at the ready, so really, what could go wrong?
On the day of departure, as I sat in the pew at morning Mass, dread began creeping into my heart. Unfortunately, I’ve read “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor multiple times, and the tale has haunted me.
In this story, an escaped convict named the Misfit happens upon a broken-down car on a lonely road south of Atlanta, where a family is stranded. Without going into gory detail, let me just say that when the grandmother admits to recognizing the killer from the newspapers, things go horribly wrong.
“What if my car breaks down?” I thought, and then a prayer card fell out of a book and came to my rescue. It contains “The Surrender Novena” by Father Don Dolindo Ruotolo, an Italian priest who bore the stigmata on his body.
The novena consists of Father Ruotolo writing down Jesus’ messages to him. Day One opens with “Why do you confuse yourselves with worrying? Leave the care of your affairs to me and everything will be peaceful.” Each day ends with “O Jesus, I surrender myself to You, take care of everything!”
With this prayer calming my heart, I packed the car carefully and headed south with the GPS lady’s voice telling me each step to take. Instead of directing me through pleasant little towns, however, the lady led me into the middle of nowheresville. No cars, no homes, no road signs. “O Jesus, I surrender myself to you!”
At one point, I passed a deer, casually standing on the side of the road, munching on grass. He looked at my car as if to say, “What in the world is that?”
I began seriously doubting technology. “Why,” I asked myself, “are you so dependent on this dumb GPS? You don’t even know where you are!”
To make things more interesting, a persistent mosquito had stowed away in the car and was nibbling on my legs like he was at an all-you-can-eat buffet. Then I spotted a tiny spider on the windshield and brushed it off—and it landed on my lap.
As I continued on my journey, I remembered that in O’Connor’s story, the family became stranded on a lonely road just like this one. Who knows whether there might be an escaped convict moseying along today? “O Jesus, I surrender myself to you!”
I recalled the old days, when my late husband was captain of the car. He planned the journey, readied the car and headed confidently down the highway, eager for the next adventure. With him at my side, I didn’t worry about mishaps, but now the empty seat reminded me I’m flying solo in life.
I arrived safely in Macon, thank God, and had a nice supper with my brother-in-law. That night, before falling asleep, I realized how easily we can lose our way, with roads heading in confusing directions.
Now that I’m alone, my life is sometimes a rougher ride, and sometimes a scarier ride. But I know that as long as Jesus is beside me, I’ll never be truly lost. He will always, in his quiet and loving way, take care of everything.
Artwork is by Jef Murray (www.jefmurray.com). Lorraine’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.