The Girl In The Truck Stop Shower
A Rabid Fundamentalist Column



John W. Cowart

              At 12 minutes after midnight on our daughter's wedding day, my wife and I buried a dog in our back yard.

              She held the flashlight, I wielded the shovel.

              We cried and said a prayer.

              No, this is not some weird fundamentalist Christian marriage ritual.

              It's just that Friendly, our old dog, had given up the ghost that same afternoon but because of the pressure of wedding arrangements -- baking the cake, mixing the punch, hunting car keys, answering the phone -- we could not get around to burying our pet until after midnight.

              That was not the oddest thing to happen that night.

              An hour or two earlier in the evening, I drove down into Springfield, the toughest section of the city, to pick up the boys who volunteered to serve as ushers at the wedding. They planned to stay near the church with our head-usher son overnight so I would not have to pick them up in the morning. They were supposed to meet me at a corner near Main Street.

              I pulled up to the dark corner, saw the boys down the street and honked the horn.

              Out of nowhere a skimpily-dressed young lady appeared at my window.

              "Looking for company," she asked.

              Flustered, I said, "No, thank you, Miss. I was honking for those boys down there".

              "Well," she said planting her fists on her hips, "If you're the sort who prefers boys..."

              And she flounced away.

              I sat there with my mouth agape; I never had a chance to explain that I'm a nice innocent Christian type. My arm is strong because my heart is pure -- Why, I can bench press all of eight (8) pounds.

              Rats! We fundamentalist Christians seldom have a chance to explain.

              Back when the Roman emperors Nero, Marcus Aurelius and Diocletian were feeding us to the lions (Is it true that Christians give lions and everyone else indigestion?) few people had any chance to explain the faith which had brought them to the arena. The Christians -- with notable exceptions like the 86-year-old Polycarp -- were sacrificed in droves, not one at a time.

              Picture a thousand scared Christians milling around on the stadium's 50-yard line, all high-stepping through kitty litter while the fans cheer and do the wave -- no dramatic speeches there. Too late to explain anything by that time.

              The saints were too busy swacking cats to make speeches.

              The Fourth Century church historian Eusebius said that when they hauled one believer away for burning, his astonished neighbor cried, "But he was such a good man, I would have never guessed he was a Christian!"

              Movies such as Ben Hur, Quo Vadis and The Robe give the impression that everybody got to make a dramatic speech giving a glowing testimony before the lions' cages were opened.

              That ain't the way it was then; that ain't the way it is now.

              Chances to testify take us by surprise; we always have to be ready.

              But we're not --

              Like with the girl in my shower.

              Here's what happened:

Years ago I drove an over-the-road truck hauling bed-bugs (that's what truckers call your household goods) for a company headquartered in Indianapolis, Ind.

              About 3 a.m. one night I was in the terminal bunkhouse taking a shower   -- big green tile room with a dozen shower heads -- to scrub off road grime. I thought I was the only person in the place until a naked young woman stepped into the shower with me.

              "I'll soap your back if you'll soap mine," she said.

              With the lightening quick wit for which I am famous, I said, "Huh?"

              She repeated her offer in more explicit terms.

              Personal Evangelism 101 in Bible college had not prepared me for this.

              Christian witnessing is a shower is a dirty job but somebody's got to do it.

              "How much?" I asked.

              She named a price and I said, "That's an intriguing offer. There's only one thing wrong; you don't charge enough."

              This time she was the one to say, "Huh?". She backed away obviously thinking that she had a real kinky one on her hands.

              We fundamentalists do occasionally appear a trifle out of step with the rest of the world. Is that because our values are different?

              "What do you mean, not enough," she asked cautiously.

              I explained that she was worth more than the few dollars she had asked; she was much more valuable, more precious. Jesus treasured this young woman in the truck terminal shower so much that he shed his own blood, gave up his own life for the likes of her -- the likes of me -- the likes of you.

              She started crying.

              Apparently most folks she'd met -- even good solid church folks -- had always told her that she was not worth much.

              What a crying shame.

              Well, I turned off the water, toweled off and got dressed. My new friend and I went out for coffee and talked till dawn. She wanted to hear the Good News over and over.

              I suppose when we fundamentalists do have a chance to explain, the most important thing we ever have to tell anyone is this:

              Don't sell yourself short; God regards you as a person of immense, exquisite value. To him you are worth something more precious than IBM stock in a steel safe. He'd die for you; in fact, we believe he already has.

              You are immensely valuable.

              That's fundamental.


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