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Life Lesson #123,011: Flip Flops and Focus

September 7, 2016

5pm Friday couldn’t come fast enough. Have you had those days where each minute takes an hour to complete?

5:05 I was out the door and enroute home to throw the last of my bags in the car, wash my lunch dishes (who wants to come home to dirty dishes?), let the dogs out and set the house in condition for a couple days of empty.

5:30pm forward motion toward Brownsville, Tennessee. Woooo hooo!

An 8 hour journey that would be quite long but by 2am when I arrived it was in my rear view mirror as I was greeted by my living, breathing and loving pot of gold.

We had just a matter of hours to explore the corner of the world he was working in. Life has been an adventure of making the best of his work travels when I can visit and we venture out to soak it all in knowing we may never return.

Enroute to Memphis I put a pair of flip flops. I’ve longed professed to many a young friend not to wear flip flops when you drive, but I went against my own instinct and advice figuring it was less than an hour drive then I’d change my shoes for the night of exploring.

Traffic was horrific as we closed in on Memphis. We proceeded at a 10 mile an hour crawl. Up to 15, down to 10. I just wanted this part to be over so we could enjoy this adventure together. I watched people zoom to the side of us exiting the highway before we were to. Then out of the corner of my eye I saw two cars nearly collide. I turn my focus toward the near collision. My stomach turned thinking I was going to witness haste coming to a horrible punctuation point. Then I caught myself in my most grievous error and turned my focus forward quickly to see break lights. I went to move my foot toward the break peddle. It was at the moment one of my nightmares began playing out in real time: my flip flop folded in the groves of the mat and delayed my need to have an immediate stop to our vehicle. In what was only seconds seemed like incredibly painful slow motion. I turned to him telling him I couldn’t get my foot free and then everything came to a horrible stop.

A very painful stop.

My jeep rode into the back end of her BMW forcing it into the full size pick up ahead of both of us. And then, and only the did we stop.

I sat in shock.

This could not be live time, this has to be the dream I kept waking up from in a sweat. I could not have made this horrible error that seemed to stop every action on that day in this moment in an immediate freeze frame.

But I did.

Traffic began quickly maneuvering around the three vehicles looking with disgust that I would disrupt their travel by being so irresponsible and careless.

All I wanted was to have those split seconds back for a do-over.

After hours of waiting, processing, and a painful prolonged look out of my windshield at the crunched car ahead of me we were able to continue on. I didn’t want to ever drive again, but the man whom God created to only strengthen me, encouraged me and consoled me as I cautiously but defeatedly proceeded forward.

The next three nights I woke up out of a deep sleep from the very real nightmare that had now become reality. I laid there just feeling so humiliated that I ignored so many of my own warnings. Each night for the next 3 nights when I awoke I opened up my mind, heart and wounded spirit to prayer asking “why”?

It has come to me that what happened mirrors so much our journey in life. How often have we had our focus forward, as it should be, on where we need to be and feeling confident in our motion? And then we see someone on a collision path and we become distracted turning our focus from our personal journey, curious and nosey watching what will surely be their self destruction.

We can’t turn away.

We become gapers and it takes our focus off of what we should be channeled into: our own personal journey.

Then WE crash.

What??? How can you allow that God? We were on the right path! We were moving forward in the direction you laid out for us. All we did was turn our eyes for a brief moment in time!

It was the flip flop God! It wasn’t my fault. It was the desire to know what he/she was doing, the desire to be better, earn more, score a quick bonus, flitter with one who was distracting to our eyes and our path, it was for just a brief moment Lord it was not a big deal!!!

But it is. It was. And it always will be.

My focus was distracted. My ability to stop the collision was hindered by something I choose to put on. I made the choice to not head my instincts. I made the choice not to stay focused. It was no body’s fault but my own and I didn’t just take myself down I took so many down with me.

My love had taken off a day of work to adventure with me. I ruined that. The lady whose car was crunched between mine and the pick up I shoved her into was enroute to visit her mother, ruined. The men in the pick up just finished a hard day’s outdoor work in high 90 degree temperature and had plans to enjoy the holiday with family on a well deserved rare two days off. But I took every one of their plans and caused chaos because I was selfish. I ignored my gut, I ignored my teaching, and I did what I did with a great repercussion to my pride, my body and my material being.

The first knee jerk response: “It was an accident. Everyone has accidents.”

My struggle: it was preventable and I knew better.

My hope: someone reads my words and stops! Turn your eyes away from that distraction.

Put on the footwear that will properly allow you to proceed forward without hindrance.

So many blame God for our collisions.

“Why did God let this happen?”

How often is it that we had a roll of the dice and God was in our ear, our heart and our mind telling us don’t do that, yet we forge forward feeling invincible.

I had to drive again.

I had to move forward.

I had to drive the 8 hours home and believe me I was alert more than I ever have been before.

My body hurt.

My rigid body was rocked physically, mentally and emotionally. I felt the punishment was well worth it.

I can only hope that I will not repeat this error and will speak openly about what I learned, hoping to prevent even just one more from making the same error.

As I lay awake each night and think of this I realize how similar this is to my faith life. I tend to relax a bit too much and get a bit too complacent in what I should constantly be alert and attentive to. Last night when I awoke and struggled I just asked God for peace. Peace in my heart and body so I could continue forward focused once again and with proper footwear on to continue my journey. Within minutes I fell asleep for the first time since the accident.

He doesn’t want us to crash but he surely is there with us then and with us after to help us understand that He is not dwelling on how many times our focus turns from our journey but how devoted we are to returning to the path He has called us to so we can continue from the place of our collision and commit ourselves to moving forward.


Wishing you peace and a safe journey,

Terri O’Neill-Borders

Hope and Friendship Foundation
721 Hickory St, Lemont, IL  60439

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.  Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
Proverbs 31: 8-9


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