JAMES BEHRENS: God is there, even when we make a wrong turn

I was once asked to bless a brand new car. It belonged to a young girl and it was her first car, a present from her parents.

She pulled into the parking lot, parked in front of the rectory front door. I got my little blessing book and holy water and said the right words and sprinkled the car with the water. She was ecstatic.

She got in the car, started the engine, drove away and then onto the street and into a parked car. She was fine. The car was not. She drove from ecstasy to an array of dents, all with a blessing.

The incident has long made me wonder about blessings.

I once read a short story. It was very odd in its structure. The first page was a very ordinary scene, a husband and wife leaving a party to head home. The second page has the same setting, but instead of going home, they part ways.

The third page has one staying and one leaving. The fourth page has a different turn of events -- the husband falls on the ice outside, misstep, one out of other possible steps.

Each page tells of something different that could have happened but did not, for only one thing could have happened. And from that one thing, other events happen.

But the other events -- or pages -- could have happened just as easily. And I guess the author wanted to show how strange and unsettling life can be.

A wrong turn, a delay of a few minutes, a chance encounter, a second of inattentiveness can cause a collision with a parked car or a parting of the ways that can have dreadful or happy consequences. A life can change in a second.

We like to think we are in control but we are not. As long as things are going well, we can assume taking hold of our lives. But randomness and happenstance have the upper hand. Someday, we are bound to take a wrong turn and realize that it was that way all along.

Maybe it is then that we turn to God and ask if He is still there. And of course He is. No matter how we drive the car, no matter what the turn of a page reveals, He is there.

I believe that and yet it is hard not to control it, to turn the dials of fate in my favor. I like to fashion stories on the page. I do not want to fall victim to someone else's narrative -- even though that is what in fact I am.

Humility means taking a back seat and hoping that maybe we will be called to a place higher. That may or may not happen. But from the rear of the room we are given a pretty good view of life, of those who are proud to be sitting in the choice front seats.

I must say I like it in the back. I like looking at them, and know that they have little interest in me. They have other things on their minds.

Perhaps that is the way it should be. But someday they will take a wrong turn, and lose control, and, hopefully find something of God when they are lost and need Him. That day will come, with just a turn of the page.

Father James Stephen (Jeff) Behrens, O.C.S.O., serves at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, 2625 Ga. Highway 212 S.W., Conyers. His email address is james@trappist.net.