(written May 2006)
Normally it has taken us about half an hour to travel from Izmir (Smyrna) to Selçuk (Ephesus) – but today we had a different starting point and it was going to take us an hour as we laboriously wound our ways through the warrens and alleyways of Izmir. We would be late for the Sunday meeting, but I’ve learned over the years that if you are going to be late, you are going to be late and not to stress, rush, or try and make up for lost time by exceeding the posted speed limit – speeding tickets are rarely a good opportunity to share the Good News. The error was in the time we departed – learn from it for future reference and drive sensibly.
The motor-way between the two cities is marvellous. As it leaves Izmir behind, you enter a large plain between the mountains, probably 50 kilometres long and ranging from 1 to 20 kilometres wide – narrow at both ends and wide in the middle. The road is well engineered and so straight as to be monotonous, streaking straight down the plain and then swinging up on to the low shoulder of the mountains on the right. Traffic was light on this Sunday morning and we were making as good time as you would expect. Being spring, there were roving rain showers lurking in the mountains and occasionally they would make a foray across the plain, their long skirts of rain draping down from the cloud head obscuring the fields below in their localised tempest.
We encountered a bit of rain during the journey, but nothing of consequence. We arrived at the point where we must part company with the motor-way, pay our toll and then switch over to the four lane divided road that would take us the remaining distance to Selçuk. Here the valley has constricted to its narrowest point, and we exit under the shadow of “Keçi Kale” or “Goat Castle” looking down from the pinnacle of the mountain on the west – a majestic view point.
Leaving the toll booth, the road wet with rain – evidence of a recent visit by one of the rain squalls – glistened in the sun, which was peeking out from between the clouds. The road curved off to the left and then split, one lane dropping off to the right to go up the plain towards Torbali and the other lane continuing on the left hand curve to drop over to the dual carriageway that would take us to Selçuk. There was a car – caught on the horns of a dilemma: do they go right or do they go left? They had stopped to ponder the point. There was nothing for me to ponder, I knew where we were going, off to the left.
As we approached, they decided that left was better than right and slowly got under way.
The speed signs were clear, 70 kph and then quickly another one of 60 kph. I had accelerated to swing past the chap starting up and crossed the bridge over the motorway we had just left, powering into the left-hand curve.
Now I don’t know what caused the events that followed. T. was of the opinion that I touched the brakes. I could have, although I do not remember doing so. I was going faster than the posted limit, that I do know.
Everything looked and felt good, no premonition of things about to deviate from the known to the unknown, from the controlled to the uncontrolled, from the pleasant to the unpleasant, from the comfortable to the decidedly uncomfortable.
We entered the curve, all was fine.
Then the back end of the car rebelled, feeling that it was too tedious to always be trailing after the front end and thought the time appropriate to swing out and try and pass the front end of the car on the right hand side.
The back end had had enough of following, it now wanted to lead.
This was not expected, nor welcomed – very unwelcome indeed.
The road was not wide, a single lane with paved shoulders.
The road was not straight, the curve going off to the left, our destination obscured by the bend in the road. And we were going too fast – but there was nothing to be done about that now – the answer was “not to be going too fast”, but we were.
Years of driving in the snow brought back some instinctive responses, and so I turned, a bit too quickly, and a bit too energetically, into the direction of the skid. The concept was good, the action appropriate, but the execution was clumsy, ham-handed and over-done.
The back-end of the car, enjoying its new found freedom and feeling that it could do a better job of directing the course of the car, was not to be so easily cajoled back to its subservient position and once again take up its traditional place trailing along at the back end of the car.
Offended by my rather abrupt handling of the steering wheel, the back end of the car snapped back to where it belonged….. and kept on going – if you can’t pass on the right, it decided to have a go at passing on the left. A new sideways skid, to the left this time.
Now this was not the turn of events that I had hoped for. The road was narrow and bordered on both sides by hefty steel guard rails. The rails on the left had been put to the test as they were bowed outwards where something big and heavy and moving at speed had interacted them – something like a car – not a good sign.
Those who know me well, know that when things go from bad to worse I tend to laugh. Hey, if the choice is to laugh or cry, you may as well laugh. At this point in time, however, I was silent. My attention was elsewhere. Neither a laugh, chuckle nor cry escaped from my lips.
I’m not sure what T. was doing as she also was very quiet.
The car, still moving at some speed was descending upon the warped guard rail and, against what I wanted to do, I turned the steering wheel into the slide, towards the guard rail which was close and coming closer every second.
My mind recalling that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, I had just aimed at the guard rail.
And so, sliding, far too fast, towards the guard rail that I have now aimed at, I waited…
And the back end of the car, grumpily, snapped back again, quickly traversing from the left to the right. Again I had over-corrected, the sight of the bent and twisted steel of the guard rail giving me added impetus to try and steer my way out of the situation.
However, my over-zealous application of direction only redirected the back end of the car, not just back to where it belonged, but over again to the right side. The back end was having an exciting flight between either extreme.
Now this wasn’t good, but it was better – there was more distance to slide as we heading for the right hand side guard rail, we were very nearly on the left hand rail when it snapped over.
I turned the wheel back towards the skid – my mind now filling with the admonition – not TOO much this time.
So I inched the wheel around in the direction of the skid, slowly, slowly and the back end of the car capitulated, and once again took up station at the back end of the car – its frenetic bid for freedom, for free expression, for dominance in giving direction to the car being overpowered, it now quietly submitted to the old order and meekly followed along.
Now, travelling down the middle of the lane, the bulk of the curve behind us, we carried on in silence, mind you at a slower speed. For the first time since the fun began, my foot moved off the floor and to the petrol pedal – time to carry on to our destination.
It was… ah… exciting. And no, I don’t really want to do it again – didn’t really want to do it the first time.
It would seem that this little event is a metaphor for what I am feeling at the moment. I know where we are going, can’t always see around the curve and sometimes things go out of “our” control but not out of “His” control.
For quite some time I have been asking the question “how I might be most effective” in the Lord. Not just “effective” but, me, who I am and the gifts and abilities that I have, how can I be “most” effective. Of the workers in country, a disproportionate number are in the big cities and our Istanbul has the lion’s share.
The need is so great that there are not too many workers in the city – the city is over 12 million strong – nevertheless…..
So, the question I ask myself and the Lord is “Is there another location where I can pursue what I believe to be the calling the Lord has laid on us, being an encouragement, a help, a blessing, to the work of the Lord in a Turkish fellowship?”
As is often the case in life, we know where we are going – ultimately – but there is a curve, we can’t see around the corner, all the while we still want to proceed, keep the speed in check and see what the Lord has for us.