The Tunnel

By: Cindy Stepanek

I do not like tunnels, especially if they go under water. I have this unrealistic fear that I will be buried alive and Jesus won’t know where I am. I will avoid tunnels at all cost except for one reason – love. My love for my husband and my children will motivate me to face that fear time and time again. My first experience with the Hampton Bridge Tunnel in Virginia was when my son returned home from Iraq. Nothing was going to stop me from seeing him, and if I had to go through a tunnel, I would. I believed that if he could survive deployment, I could conquer the tunnel.

My two daughters and I decided to make the long drive from West Chester, Ohio to Virginia Beach, during a tropical storm with localized flooding in Virginia. As we approached the tunnel, I ignored the signs that warned, “___ miles to the Hampton Bridge Tunnel…Last exit before the tunnel…” When I read, “Be sure you have a full tank of gas,” I turned to the girls and said, “What the heck is that about? We are driving through, not taking a scenic tour.” The rain and wind continued to bear down on the car as the interstate made a quick decent into the looming tunnel of death before us.

Without realizing what I was doing, I began a series of “Jesus, Mary and Joseph pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen. We are all going to die.” Followed by a series of words that should not be said, nor will I repeat. My daughters found great humor in my distress and laughed hysterically all the way through the tunnel. Although I have made the trip back and forth several times, it has never gotten easier. The tunnel has not changed. It is still 3.5 miles, or 18,489 feet, or 221,760 inches under water. Although I am still terrified, the other side holds something much greater than my fear.

Recently I had the opportunity to brave the tunnel with my daughter, Cassie. We were going to spend girl time with her sister, my youngest daughter, Lexi, before her deployment. I could feel my heart begin to beat faster the closer we got to the tunnel, but I was determined. Once in the tunnel I started praying and making a fool of myself. Cassie who is very wise for her 25 years said, “Mom, what are you worried about? You always say that if you die you get to be with Jesus. If you live you get to spend more time here. It’s a win-win.”

Through gritted teeth I heard myself say, “It isn’t the end result; it is the journey to the end that concerns me.” We laughed.

That thought has lingered in my brain and I realized there is great truth in that statement. It isn’t the destination that concerns me. I know where I am going. I will be with Jesus. It is the unknown and possibilities in the journey along the way that distracts me.

What’s in your tunnel?

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