Have you ever had an incident where you felt that you were being protected or directed by a force beyond yourself? I have had many such events, some insignificant and others significant. Let me tell you about a few of them.
I drove to my son’s college last week to pack up about 90% of his belongings. He would graduate this week, and I knew the family would not want the hassle of packing on graduation day. The day before my packing trip, I was using my phone, and I developed a sudden fascination for the State Farm app. I had that app on my phone for years and never thought about it. Why would I be so interested in it now?
I opened the app and was immediately drawn to the section on roadside assistance. I had never used roadside assistance in the 40-plus years I had State Farm car insurance. “Hmm, I forgot I even had that,” I thought.
Kathryn, Will, and I packed Violet the campervan to bursting. I then did a graduation photoshoot with Will in his cap and gown. Exhausted, KK and I were about to leave when I discovered that Violet had a flat tire. “Crap!” I said out loud. Violet is a big girl, and her spare is under her carriage. I had never changed a tire on her and thought I couldn’t manage it. However, my recent app awareness reminded me that I had roadside assistance. Forty-five minutes later, we were on our way back home.
When Kathryn was a freshman, I drove her and her belonging to the University of Arizona. I then drove back solo to Naperville in my tiny Honda Fit. There was a lot of road construction on my return trip, with long sections of the highway cordoned into single lanes using concrete barriers. I had heard that the state police were brutal on speeders in these areas, so I made sure that I turned on cruise control every time I was in a construction lane.
I was in New Mexico, driving in a long, cordoned-off lane and daydreaming. Suddenly, I felt an overwhelming command. “LOOK IN YOUR REARVIEW MIRROR, NOW!” I did so and was horrified to see the giant grill of an 18-wheeler. The truck was so close to me that the driver could not see me. He wasn’t paying attention and was likely as distracted as I was. He would have overtaken the Honda in seconds, destroying it and killing me. I punched the gas pedal and slowly moved forward and away from the truck. Finally, he saw me and was clearly as freaked out by the event as I was. He stayed several miles away from me from that point on.
One more car example. As some of you know, I drove weekly to Rockford, Illinois, for many years. Part of that drive was on Interstate 39, a notoriously windy road. I was going home one Friday and was very tired. In front of me was a pickup truck pulling a camper trailer. Once again, I felt a firm command, “BACK UP, GIVE THAT TRAILER SPACE.” I slowed down and increased my interval from several car lengths to several blocks. The pickup tried to change lanes but couldn’t and jerked back into my lane. That jerk, plus the wind, sent the trailer into a wild oscillation, and within moments, it went airborne and then crashed horizontally right in my lane. I would have been crushed if I had been following at a normal distance.
These types of events go well beyond driving. Let me give you a couple of other examples.
When I was a student, many teachers would mark “on the curve.” In other words, the top grade on the test would become 100%, no matter the actual score. This was a way to compare student to student rather than using some arbitrary scoring standard. I often “broke the curve,” meaning I scored significantly higher than the other students. So my test score would become the defacto 100%. I am good at taking tests, but I have a secret weapon. Usually, when studying obscure facts (sometimes at the footnote level) would pop up, I would get the feeling, “STUDY THIS.” More often than not, that information would be prominently questioned on the test.
How about another academic example? This one you may have heard before. I didn’t have a lot of resources when I was younger. I got an full ride plus a stipend to attend graduate school and earned my Master’s in Biochemistry that way. I planned to continue to get a Ph.D. and become a university professor. However, I again had an overwhelming feeling, this time to do something crazy. “LEAVE GRADUATE SCHOOL AND APPLY TO MEDICAL SCHOOL.” This was an insane idea. I was incredibly fortunate to get a deal to attend grad school, and this feeling was telling me to throw the opportunity away.
I attended a junior college for two years and then NIU for my undergraduate degree. I was surprised that graduate schools wanted me. Med school applicants start their preparations in high school and have the funds to attend top universities. That was not me.
I fought the feeling thinking that it was academic suicide. This only made the urge stronger, “LEAVE GRADUATE SCHOOL. IT IS NOT FOR YOU! TRUST ME, APPLY TO MEDICAL SCHOOL” I finally gave in and left after my Master’s degree, got a research job at the University of Chicago, and applied to medical schools. I was confident that I had just thrown my life away. However, multiple schools interviewed and accepted me. I wound up attending one of the country’s top medical schools. That sort of stuff doesn’t happen to a blue-collar kid like me.
Because I went to med school, I worked in a hospital. It was there that I met my wife. Yesterday I sat down with her and our three wonderful kids to celebrate Mother’s Day. None of that would have happened if I had continued my original path.
OK, just one more example. As a teenager, I had a desk at the top of the second-floor stairs in our old 1920s bungalow. The space between the desk and the stairs was adequate for a chair but not generous. One day I was seated at my desk and completely engrossed, trying to figure out a physics problem set. I kept working the equations one way, then another, but I couldn’t get the answer that I knew was correct. When I am in such a place, everything around me becomes muted, and my mind transcends into a place where all outside distractions disappear. Oblivious to the world, I found myself tapping my pencil as I rolled my chair back and forth, back and forth. Suddenly, I felt “STOP!” and simultaneously experienced what felt like two hands pressing on my shoulders, freezing me and freaking me out. I jumped up, and my chair crashed down the stairs and into the hard dresser on the landing below. On my next unconscious roll, I would have tumbled down the stairs, with the crash breaking my neck or possibly even killing me.
I could give other examples, but I hope you get the point. These events were controlled by a force outside of me. A power that would guide me, protect me, help me.
Some may say that it is just my subconscious processing data and popping up in my conscious when necessary. Others may say it is random coincidence. Still, others may note that it is the direct voice of God. Or could we have spiritual beings connected to our Higher Power that travel life with us and protect us? Some may call such an entity a guardian angel.
I’m leaning toward the last two explanations. But, naturally, I am still determining where the truth lies. There are many forces in the world that I neither understand nor comprehend. What do you think?