Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Worst Snowstorm

My family are unabashed members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. For children ages 3 through 12, we have classes during church for each age called "Primary" classes. During a portion of this period, all the children meet together and usually a few are asked to give "talks" -- mini-sermons, if you will -- about some Gospel subject. My oldest son has been asked to give a talk tomorrow morning and like the slacker parent that I am, I didn't get around to helping him write it at all today. My wife came home late from a work obligation and is still somewhat grumpy with me for not helping him prepare it. Nevertheless, she did tell him to go to his room while we were getting the other kids ready for bed and to think about what he wanted to write. I liked what he came up with so much that I thought I'd share it here, as follows:

My Family Can Follow Jesus Christ in Faith

I would like to tell you a story about faith. Last winter when my family was driving to Utah, there was a snowstorm. We were on the highway and the road was very slippery. There was snow everywhere. My dad could barely see. It was very scary and dangerous. We decided to pray for help. Heavenly Father blessed us. We were able to get there safely.

This story reminds me of having faith in Jesus Christ. Our life is like being in the car in the snowstorm. We could crash and not follow Heavenly Father. Jesus has given us an example and has shown us the right way to go. We will make it through our storm in life if we have faith in him.


My son decided to tell this story all on his own. When he practiced his talk for me and my wife tonight, it was moving that he would remember this experience, and recall how we had prayed that night for help. We were driving in the middle of Southern Utah at the time, and it was the worst snowstorm they'd seen in that area for over a decade. It was truly horrendous, and easily the worst snowstorm I'd ever driven in. To make matters worse, it happened in a tough geographic location. In that area, towns are 1/2 an hour to 1 hour apart -- in ideal driving conditions -- with exits from the freeway being sparse. The mountains go up and down with regularity, which normally cause no problems when driving, but not that night.

It was just after Christmas. The freeways were busy with post-holiday traffic and the semi-trucks were on the move. We had a tough break getting through Las Vegas so we were running quite behind schedule. The sun went down and the storm moved in. Soon snow was piling up on the sides of the roads. Snow plows were nowhere in sight, and all the drivers found it necessary to follow in the snow ruts left by the cars that had driven before them. Changing lanes was problematic as the warm road had converted the lowest levels of the fallen snow to slush; leaving the worn ruts in the snow would cause heavy splashing and the car to slide. Visibility was limited because of the large snow flakes which fell far faster than they should have. The lanes in the road were impossible to distinguish -- only the mile markers and signposts on the side of the road and the ruts we were following gave us confidence that we hadn't left the road altogether. Because of this the two lane freeway soon became one. It was evident that there were less-well-worn paths to be followed elsewhere on the freeway, sometimes to the right and sometimes to the left, but my mini-van does not have four-wheeled drive, nor did it have snow chains on the wheels. Most of the time I faithfully followed the vehicle in front of me, going as fast as was prudent to stay close behind.

Occasionally, we'd see cars pulled to the side of the road. We contemplated doing the same, as we had no idea how long this storm would last. However, with my wife and three young children in the car -- cold, hungry, tired, and scared -- we concluded we had to keep going and not stop. If we did stop for any reason, we were afraid we wouldn't be able to get moving again because of the slippery conditions of the road and the deepness of the snow.

In the cold calculus of my engineer's head, I concluded we had to get through the storm, and do it fast, so I tried to maintain a fairly substantial velocity, which necessitated hazarding lane changes to pass slow-moving vehicles. Again, we were fearful of getting stuck in the snow. Looking back, this was clearly faulty thinking.

On one foray to the less-traveled lane, I undertook to pass a semi-truck. Moving to the side proved little trouble, but soon I was in the shadow of this vehicle that was pushing a wake in the snow. It splattered my windshield so thoroughly that I could see absolutely nothing. The steering wheel shuddered in my white-knuckled hands, and I truly, honestly feared for my life, and the life of my little family. I pushed the accelerator to the floor to get by, not knowing if I was pointed in the right direction or not. I could have been accelerating faster off the road or closer to the truck, I didn't know. For some unknown reason, going faster seemed wiser than stepping on the brakes, perhaps, again, because we were afraid of getting stuck in the snow. After what seemed an eternity, we found ourselves ahead of the wake and still on the road. I concluded that we wouldn't be passing any more trucks that night, and I have vowed to never drive in those conditions again.

I attribute the fact that we survived that night wholeheartedly to my faithful wife. It was her idea to pray with the children. She encouraged me and never once doubted my driving abilities. I don't believe I merited the trust she had in me, but I was all she had, and I have no doubt that God blessed us that night because of her and the children, and not for my stubborn, calculating head that only wanted to get to our destination.

The fact that my son looks back on this experience and learned something from it has nothing to do with me. It has everything to do with the humble woman who was sitting next to me, issuing encouraging words and pleading in her heart for the safe arrival of our little family. If it wasn't for her prayers -- the prayer of the faithful -- we probably would have died that night.

As for me, I've never really spoken about that night with my wife (she'll read this soon enough). I've always been somewhat ashamed of my pride -- the pride that said that only I could get us through -- and my fear -- the fear that insisted that we do not stop -- and my irresponsible risk-taking -- trying to pass that truck -- that could have killed me and my little family that night. I have no excuse. I have only gratitude that we made it, despite my own personal failings. Yes, indeed, I learned a lot that night, too.

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