When I was a young man I drove a taxi. That was a fun job - I got to drive nice old style boats - Caprices, Lincolns, and even a Cadillac from time to time. Once I got to drive the firm's limo for a wedding - that was a neat experience. I used downtime between fares to read good poetry and to write bad poetry. I developed incredible defensive driving skills which still benefit me to this day. And I built friendships with many interesting people.
One of these people was a sweet old black lady named Mavis who used to call on us every now and then to take her to the doctor's office or the mall or other such places. She was exceedingly charming, full of vim, and always had a story to tell. I had actually known her casually for several years before I started driving the cab, and as I got to know her better in the ensuing years, I witnessed her pass a frailty threshold to the point where she always need an arm to lean on to get in & out of the car. Being the consummate gentleman, I always obliged her cheerfully.
One icy winter night, I was escorting her across a particularly slick sidewalk to my cab (I had picked a bad place to park, in hindsight). Her steps were timid and hesitant. "Hold on tight," she admonished me, and I gripped her around her waist with one arm, holding on to her arm with my other hand.
But it was too slippery, and as we were almost right up to the cab I sensed her losing her footing and starting to fall.
My mind raced as time slowed to a crawl. Despite her frailty, she wasn't exactly a petite woman, and I was not positioned well enough to support her weight and still keep my own footing. Somehow, I instinctively knew that the only way to keep her from falling hard and breaking something was to let my hold around her waist slide up to under her shoulders and then to ease her gradually and carefully to the ground. Somehow I managed to control her fall safely and gently, her legs sliding under my parked taxi in the process.
This must not have looked at all graceful to any onlookers.
Time resumed its normal speed. She let out a whimper, and looked up at me with those big white eyes glistening in the starlight, crying out in her creaky, weathered voice, "Why did you let me fall?"
My heart broke. I felt like I had let her down (pun unintended and shamelessly left exactly where it is). But I knew that if I hadn't controlled her fall, she would have been in a much worse state than merely horizontal and a bit chilled. I tried to stammer out an explanation but she wouldn't hear it; in her mind I had betrayed her by not protecting her absolutely.
I was able to raise her up again and get her safely into the cab, and I got her home and to her door with no further incident. But the memory of that moment, and of the utter shock and hurt in her eyes and her voice, has stayed with me.
Today this memory sprung unbeckoned to mind, and it struck me that there's a lesson here. I'm no stranger to sin, and as much as I do try to walk closely with God each day of my life, sometimes I am on slippery ground and don't realize my danger until it's too late.
But God is good, and his arms are wrapped around me. If I am to fall, he's still got me, and he can protect me even in the face of mortal sin. I can think of many times when my slips into sin have been unnaturally cushioned by grace at the end of the plummet. And on those occasions, if I were to look up at God and ask, "Why did you let me fall?" I now realize the hurt that must cause him - he has done nothing but protect me, even if I made that more difficult for him by choosing to walk on slippery ground.
Mavis, wherever you are, thank you for being God's instrument in my life. And I'm sorry for not choosing a better spot to park.