One holiday weekend, my friends Bob and Audrey left Winnipeg, Manitoba, their van piled high with sleeping bags and children, then steered across 1,000 miles of open prairie to see the in-laws in Michigan. Sunday night they headed for home, driving through the night. When Audrey offered to drive, Bob clambered into the back and drifted off.
A few hours later, Audrey pulled into a rest stop, used the restroom, and pulled back onto the freeway. Two hours later the kids began to wake up. But not Bob.
“Where’s Daddy?” asked her seven-year-old.
“Very funny,” said Audrey. “He’s back there sleeping, uh, isn’t he?”
The children began pushing pillows aside. “Nope. He’s not back here.”
Panic, worry, and fear overtook Audrey. She had no cell phone. Where was Bob? Where had she left him? Was it two hours ago? Three? “Dear God,” she prayed, “Help!”
At a truck stop, she called the police. “Sorry, could you repeat that?” said the officer.
“I’m serious,” she said. “I left my husband, but not intentionally, although he might be thinking so.”
The officer gave her a long list of truck stop phone numbers and she started dialling. Down to the last number she prayed, “Help! Do you have a guy there who—?”
“Yup. I do.” Bob started to laugh. And Audrey started to cry.
Two hours earlier he had climbed out of the van to use the restroom. When he came back, the van was gone. He circled the service station three times, expecting to find his prankster wife around the next corner. She wasn’t. “She wouldn’t leave me like this,” thought Bob. “Would she?”
Bob spent the hours washing people’s windshields and praying that God would speak loudly to his wife, perhaps give her a flat tire. He climbed in with a trucker who needed encouragement. “This was a divine appointment,” the trucker said, “I really needed this.”
Early the next morning, Bob watched the headlights of a very familiar van pull into the rest stop, honking loudly. “It’s the first time I ever left him,” Audrey told me. “It will be the last.”
Audrey says, “It seems the only time I really learn and grow is when there’s nowhere else to turn but to God. Psalm 55:22 says, ‘Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you.’”
Then she grins, “And of course I learned it’s always a good idea to count bodies before you pull out onto the freeway.”