One evening in the summer of 1978, after I’d returned from Bethel camp, but while I was still home with my family on break from college, a friend who was over asked for a ride back to his place. I grabbed my wallet so I’d have my license with me, but as the trip would take only a few minutes, I put it on the dashboard instead of in my pocket. After I got back and went into the house, I remembered I’d left it there. When I went outside to get it, the car was gone.
Looking around, I spotted it in middle of the road at the end of our driveway. I dashed inside for a key and sprinted down to rescue the car before it was hit. But it looked as if it had already been hit. So did our other car, thought it was still safely parked on our property. This was quite puzzling. But all of a sudden, I put two and two together.
I hadn’t just forgotten my wallet in the car. I’d also forgotten to put the transmission in “Park” when I returned, leaving it in “Drive,” so that the car rolled back down the hill. I’d just happened to pull in at such an angle that it first rolled off the driveway and struck our other car, then bounced back on and continued into the street.
Fortunately, my father carried “comprehensive” auto insurance to cover such improbable occurrences. Insurance required us to file a police report for any accident damages we wanted them to pay for, so I filled one out. I had to list a driver for each vehicle. I learned that under Connecticut law, the “driver” of a parked car is considered to be the last person to have operated it. That was me, in both cases. So I have the perhaps unique distinction of having been the driver of both vehicles in a two-car collision.
Insurance agreed to cover the damages, remarkably without comment, but there was still a deductible of several hundred dollars, which it was only fair for me to pay. This consumed my travel fund and I had to abandon my plans to go visit Priscilla in Ottawa over the Labor Day weekend.
It’s irresistible to speculate whether there might not have been a providential purpose behind such an unlikely occurrence. I can think of a couple of reasons why it wouldn’t have been appropriate for my relationship with Priscilla to have turned romantic at this point, if that’s what would have happened had the visit taken place.
For one thing, as a rising junior, I was about to assume much greater responsibilities on the leadership team of the student organization I was primarily involved with, the Harvard-Radcliffe Christian Fellowship. When I was a senior, I served as the group’s president. So for the next couple of years, it was important that my time and attention not be divided between the fellowship’s service and outreach work and a long-distance relationship.
Equally importantly, it’s quite possible that if Priscilla and I had begun a dating relationship at this point, I wouldn’t have known enough to recognize what a marvelous wife she would make for me. This was because I didn’t yet realize the importance of complementarity in a husband and wife’s abilities, personalities, and outlook. I was looking for somebody who was just like me, and we could hardly have been more different in many respects. (For example, in Meyers-Briggs terms, as we would later discover, we were complete opposites: she was an ESFP, and I was an INTJ.)
A “type-1 error” is believing a lie. This may be corrected when the truth comes along. A “type-2 error” is rejecting the truth. It’s much more difficult to correct. It’s quite possible that the improbable two-car accident I had while standing in my house that summer saved me from a type-2 error. If I had dated Priscilla in 1978, I might well have concluded that while she was a wonderful person with a whole lot of great things going for her, she wasn’t the right one for me. In retrospect, I can see that it was good to put off the question for a couple more years, until I was able to recognize the right answer.
In my earlier posts I often describe how God provided the funds for things He wanted us to do. This may have been a case of God not wanting us to do something, at least not at that point, and withdrawing the funds.
Priscilla was disappointed that I couldn’t come see her, and so was I. Apart from any overtones our relationship was taking on that led campers to ask indiscreet questions, we had always simply enjoyed one another’s company, and we were sorry to miss the time together. But she was also quite understanding. The accident had “act of God” written all over it, so she didn’t question its consequences. She also recognized that I wouldn’t be able to come see her during the school year.
We wouldn’t see one another again, in fact, until the next summer, when I returned to Camp de Béthel for a fifth time. She came over from Ottawa for another weekend visit. After the Sunday evening meeting, we stood together outside the entrance of the tabernacle to say our goodbyes.
“Will I ever see you again?” she asked. “Probably not,” I replied, explaining that I’d be graduating from college the next spring and then would either need to get a full-time job or else prepare to enter seminary in the fall, either of which would keep me from volunteering at Bethel again.
“Well then,” she said, “I hope you have a good life.”