Driving on the backroads of Ireland is very stressful and downright scary sometimes. This is no exaggeration. Americans like me are already at a bit of a disadvantage because the steering wheel is on the right side of the car, and the Irish drive on the left side of the road. Secondly, Irish roads are notoriously curvy and hilly – and the signs say you can go a lot faster than I think is actually possible. Maybe the locals can do it, but when I saw a curve up ahead with a sign indicating 100km/h, I pretty much had to slow down to 50km/h just to not wreck my car. I’m not kidding. It’s not just me – ask other visitors and they will tell you the same (I overheard other tourists discussing this crazy reality).
Aside from these factors, many country roads are single-lane flanked by walls made of some type of foliage (shrubbery, bushes, or trees) or some type of stonework (properties fenced in by piles of rock) you could easily reach out and touch. The close proximity of these walls to the road also means there is very little shoulder to pull off onto. So, you’re in an unfamiliar country in an unfamiliar car on extremely curvy, hilly roads where you can’t see what’s around the bend or over the hill, and there is very little margin for error because veering slightly off road leads to a collision, which will probably lead to another collision because other vehicles might not see you before they are right on top of you.
In case you are wondering, when a car is coming your way on a single lane road, both drivers quickly survey their surroundings to determine the next step. If the other person seems to have a tiny bit more shoulder room than you, they flash their lights to bid you forward, try to pull off as far left as they possibly can, and wait for you to pass by (with your side mirrors almost clipping each other) before reoccupying the road again. You would do the same if you are able to pull off the road a bit. As they say in the United Kingdom, it is really dodgy.
It took five strangers from multiple vehicles to see that we were in trouble, stop, come over, and then physically rock and lift our car out of the ditch and back onto the road.
One time, Rachel and I were on one of these roads, and I thought I had about 18 inches of grassy sod onto which I could pull over and let an oncoming vehicle pass. Unfortunately, the sod was actually a ditch with really tall grass growing inside of it – and we got stuck. It took five strangers from multiple vehicles to see that we were in trouble, stop, come over, and then physically rock and lift our car out of the ditch and back onto the road (note to tourists of Ireland: rent a small coupe and not a big SUV – you will thank me later!).
I share all of this with you because these single lane country roads in Ireland were nerve-wracking for me, and especially for Rachel. With me behind the wheel, I felt much more in control since I could steer and I could brake, but in the passenger seat I’m sure she felt helpless and had her life flash before her eyes more than a few times. I kept telling her to relax, and that there was no use in both of us being super anxious and wound up about not crashing. But if I were in her position, I am sure I would have felt the same way. And for a good portion of our drive around the southern and western coast of the Emerald Isle, Rachel was on understandably on edge as we navigated these narrow roads.
I could see her brace for impact every time we got too close to a wall of stone or shrubbery on our left, or a car passing on our right. Her body would shift into a protective position and she would close her eyes tightly, and then inhale sharply and quickly. There were lots of gasps. Lots. And in my mind (and sometimes out loud) I would be like, “Love!!!!!!!” “Relax!” “I got this!” “Don’t worry!”
And she would exhale and untense her body for a moment, and all would be well, but soon enough she would reflexively return to the same posture and perspective, gasping and quietly freaking out. Old habits die hard, it seems.
Eventually, though, Rachel had a breakthrough.
It started to become exhausting to keep tensing up and then relaxing her body and nerves, with her blood pressure rising and falling. And as she began to process her thoughts out loud in conversation with me, she by herself came to the conclusion that nothing she could do would affect whether we crashed or didn’t crash. She was just working herself up for no good reason. I was behind the wheel, she had entrusted her safety to me, and had to have faith that I would take care of her, and that I had her best interests at heart. This is because I love her – more than she will ever know. She just had to sit back and try to enjoy the ride.
And so it is with life.
These days, I’m learning anew the mysterious lesson that doesn’t ever seem to fully and permanently sink in: that we’re not in control. Our first baby is going to be born in a couple of weeks, and it’s pretty much all I think about. I’m wondering if I have prayed enough for her – for her health, for the labor, for the delivery, and for Rachel. I’m wondering if I should have been singing songs to Baby or reading books to Baby over the course of these months. I’m wondering if I should have put headphones on Rachel’s belly and piped some classical music into the womb because of the proposed “Mozart Effect.” All I want is a healthy, bouncing baby girl who develops and grows perfectly, and I just feel completely helpless in guaranteeing that happens. Completely helpless.
There are no guarantees. I get that. And I am actively willing myself to just let go, on a daily basis. Really. I mean, nothing I do at this point will affect the health of our baby.
But sometimes, my emotions just rage, and things feel so unsafe because I have no control over the outcome.
In these moments, I have to keep returning to the truth and not let the encroaching tidal wave of emotions overtake me. The truth is solid ground – where I have sure footing, and not shifting sand – which represents my all-over-the-place feelings and keeps me unstable, fearful, and basically a hot mess.
We cannot live our lives bracing for impact: half expecting the bottom to fall out, the other shoe to drop, for life to go sideways.
The truth is that God is in firm control. The truth is that we are as safe as we can ever be if we entrust our lives and our future to Him, because He is perfectly good, and loving, and has our best interests at heart. We cannot live our lives bracing for impact: half expecting the bottom to fall out, the other shoe to drop, for life to go sideways.
But even if it does, He’s still with us. He’s present. He’s behind the wheel. And He will remain actively involved, no matter what. This is because He loves us, more than we will ever know.
There is safety in that.
We just need to sit back and try to enjoy the ride.