Rabid Fun

John Cowart's Daily Journal: A befuddled ordinary Christian looks for spiritual realities in day to day living.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

This Couple Wanted My Bed

Yesterday Dr. Oz told me that my prostate cancer progresses as expected; the PSA readings continue to inch up.

We’ll see what happens.

After the doctor’s appointment Ginny and I ran some errands; and as we drove here and there, we talked about the progress of the disease and especially its effect on our sex life.

That got us laughing over remembered fun incidents from our distant past up to the present.

After she went in to work late, I continued thinking along those lines and I remembered a turning point in my life back in 1970 when I drove an 18-wheeler over the road as an independent truck driver.

The company I drove for played ping pong with me all across the nation. One day loading in Maimi or New York, the next unloading in Richmond and loading for Dallas, then from there to Chicago, to New Orleans, to Los Angeles, to Albuquerque, to Denver, to Boston… on and on wherever the white lines led.

I’d be away from home months at a time.

The company dispatcher and his wife, Bob and Judy, lived in Indianapolis, middle of the country. A compassionate couple, they invited any drivers passing through Indy to sleep over at their house, get a shower, relax, eat a home-cooked meal. Maybe grab a few beers.

They opened their home continually even though they only had one spare bedroom.

I got there early one Saturday and snagged the only spare bed. A bunch of other drivers just happened to be in town later that same evening. Six or eight men camped on the living room sofa or spread sleeping bags on the floor.

I had the only bed until…

Just before dawn Sunday morning, another driver shook me awake and explained his problem. Out drinking, he’d met this young lady in a bar. She was willing but insisted only in a bed — she was a girl with scruples.

“Be a good guy and let us have the bed,” the driver said.

Wanting to be a good guy, I got up and let the couple retire behind the closed door of the bedroom.

OK, What can you do early Sunday morning when a batch of sleeping truck drivers litter the living room floor?

I decided to shave and walk to a church I’d noticed down the block.

Just because I didn’t want to wake other people and I had nothing better to do.

Turned out that the church, which I’d never heard of before, had invited a guest speaker, a prominent local attorney, to deliver a talk that morning. He’d never been in that church before either.

He spoke about Christian Vulnerability using the Scripture where God says, “My strength is made perfect in weakness”.

He pointed out that we tend to magnify biblical heroes, strong men like Sampson who killed a thousand Philistines with the jaw bone of an ass, or David who brought down a giant with a sling stone, or Daniel who braved the lions, or Paul who fought wild beasts at Ephesus.

These were great men… yet God says, “My strength is made perfect in weakness”.

When we act at our strongest, people say, “What a hero! How strong he is”>

When we make ourselves vulnerable for Christ’s sake, observers can only say, “Look what God has done with such a puny instrument!”

After the service as people strolled out the door, they shook the speaker’s hand and mouthed platitudes about enjoying his sermon.

But my own heart was strangely warmed.

I liked to think of myself as a strong man, a potential hero, but deep inside I knew I was faking it. My strength was a mask, a wall I’d built to keep anyone from knowing my weaknesses,. my fears, my shames, my emptiness..

Yes, I’d won karate tournaments and begun to study aikido. Yes, I drove a big rig alone all over the nations solving any problem alone on my own initiative in those days before the cell phone was invented, when there was no one to call for help. Yes, I’d done social work in the midst of burning cities and rioting looters.

But I knew that inside I am a weak man. Weak as a kitten in the rain, proud as a strutting movie hero. What a pathetic combination.

I stopped and drew the speaker aside. We went out for coffee and talked for hours about being vulnerable for Christ’s sake, about the sin of pride of heart, about pretending to be tougher than I really am, about building walls and wearing masks.

And about what it means to be a Christian man relying not on our own strength but on God’s.

In our conversation, I felt God touch my heart in such a way that I became willing to stop pretending, to be my real self, and to let God do whatever He chose to do with the sorry material He had to work with -- me.

The attorney’s name was Donald Duck — “A perfectly respectable name before about 1937,” he said.

He was a corporate attorney specializing in labor relations. I suspect he was as wealthy as Midas. He dressed in tailored suits and here I was a truck driver with no better clothes to wear than my company uniform.

Yet, In Christ, we became fast friends.

No matter when I called him, from wherever in the country, he instructed his secretaries to put through my calls.

Months after we met, when I happened to be in the city again passing through, Don Duck asked me to speak to an assembly of society people at a meeting in another attorney’s home.

Attorneys, physicians, bankers, architects, elected officials, labor leaders, corporate executives, glittering women in evening gowns — scare me to death!

The Lord said that if we follow Him, we may stand before kings, but He never said we’d stand before them as equals!

But I gave it a try — I put my trucker’s uniform in the dry cleaners to wear to the assembly.

I tried to memorize my talk.

As best I can remember, it went something like this:

Hello. My name is John.

I drive a truck.

My truck is 44 feet long and eight feet wide. My legal loaded weight is 76 tons. I drive between 300 and 600 miles every day. Load the truck all day. Drive all night. (If you’re with the Federal Trade Commission, I never said any of that).

To stay awake on the road I drink a lot of coffee.

A whole lot of coffee.

You know they say there’s a time and a place for everything, So here I am driving down the road after drinking cup after cup of coffee… The time has come and I’m looking for a place.

I see a sign says, “Rest Area — 40 miles”.

Forty miles is a long way when the time came ten miles back!

Then there appears another sign, “Rest Area — 25 Miles”.

Good. I can squeeze it in enough to make another 25 miles.

You know, the whole world is looking for rest. People are tired. They are weary. They see a Christian and hear us talk about living with purpose, life with meaning, peace of mind, the joy of the Lord, and they long for all that good stuff.

They see us as signboards saying Rest Area Ahead.

But on the road, as the white lines pass and pass, I see another big green sign beside the Interstate: “Rest Area — Next Right — No Facilities”!

Facilities is the one thing I want most at that moment.

What happens when people get close to you?

Jesus said, “Come unto me all ye that labor and I will give you rest”.

The world comes to see us. They’re weary. They’ve been anticipating, hoping for a Rest Area all their lives. When they get to me, when they get to you, do they find … No Facilities?

When I wear my company uniform, it’s a sign that people can expect a certain level of behavior and service. When I name myself as a Christian, people expect no less.

We either live for Christ, or we live for something less.

To the world, we are Rest Area — or we are No Facilities.

You know, the one thing I’m scared of most as a truck driver is … going home.

That’s right. I drive over the road in blizzards of snow, in thick fog and pouring rain and heavy traffic. I’ve seen hellacious wrecks. Once saw a man’s decapitate head laying in the road beside his car, his kids’ toys scattered all over the Interstate.

I never want to be part of such a wreck.

But the thing scariest to me is going home.

While I am still a great way off, far across the country, I began to imagine how Ginny, my wife, will receive me when I get home.

One driver I knew went home to Chicago for Christmas. He carried a trunk full of toys and presents for his wife and kids. He parked on the street and ran into the house.

It was empty.

They’d moved.

While he was gone his wife had met another man. She packed kids and all the furniture, turned off the gas and electricity and moved away. No body was home when the driver got there.

So as I drive home, I get to thinking about things like that. Has Ginny met a better man? Have her feelings for me changed? Can things be the same between us? Will she even be there when I get back?

For mile after mile after mile through the night I imagine it this way and that way… and it scares me. What will I find when I get home after being in a far country?

You know, whenever I get to thinking about God, I feel that same kind of scared.

Here I am in a far country, been away from Him a long time. Done things He would never approve of. Hardly given Him a thought. What would happen if I were to go Home?

What if He fusses at me? What if He turns His face away?… What if He rejects me? What if He says, “Cowart, you’ve had your chance. Too late now. Go away”?

What if… What if I go to God… and there’s nobody there?

An empty house. No heat. No lights. No water.

Nobody, nothing there at all?

Jesus told the story of the Prodigal Son. You know it. Kid takes his share of the cash, leaves home, travels to a far country, lives like a pig. Comes to himself and decides to go back to his Father.

The Bible says that “When he was yet a great way off” the Father saw him, ran to meet him, hugged him, gave him clean clothes, put a gold ring on his finger, killed the fatted calf, threw a party. Welcomed him Home…

“When he was a great way off”.

“A great way off”.

“Way off”.

When I get home, as soon as Ginny hears the air breaks on my truck, she jumps up and runs out in her night dress, throws herself into my arms, hugs me, squeezes me, presses herself against me, showers me with kisses, leads me inside and fries chops, my favorite meal. She kneels and pulls off my boots. She mixes gin and strawberry soda, my favorite drink…. And well, she does other things too, but you get the picture.

She welcomes me Home.

So, what’s the most important thing I have to say tonight?

If you’ve been in another country. Even if you’ve settled there. If you feel far off from God. If you feel the slightest inclination, the slightest drawing, to return Home...

But, if you fear that you have screwed up too bad, if you’ve done things, if things have been done to you… Even if you fear that you will come to God and nobody will be there…

Not to worry.

Fear not.

He sees you even when you are a great way off and He runs to greet you.

Jesus said, “He that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out”.

Come to Jesus.

You will find welcome.

You will find rest.

You will find Home.

On a side note: When our youngest son was born, we named him Donald, after Donald Duck.

Although Ginny & I have been married 39 years now, and although instead of gin and strawberry soda I’m now likely to drink decalf coffee, and although our ardor is tempered a bit with time and familiarity, Ginny and I are still just as glad to see eachother, same as back then.

Thanks be to God.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 4:36 AM


At 8:04 AM, Blogger Seeker said...

Good message.
I was thinking about the "no facilities". I guess if we can't offer facilities when people come to us, they look for alternatives. That's not good.

At 8:24 AM, Blogger Pat said...

Great post - every last word of it.

At 6:03 PM, Blogger LeiselB said...

Beautiful John. I appreciate every word and every story.

At 11:45 PM, Blogger Amrita said...

Worried about your health John. Will pray.
What a beautiful story and you have an amazing memory too.with your stories you are making a beautiful quilt of your life and family.From what i gather you are a very loving and close knit family and Ginny is an exceptional woman. If i get a chance I want to send her an Indian gift. I 'll do that when someone i know is travelling to the States.

At 6:24 AM, Blogger John Cowart said...

I remember that talk I gave 36 years ago so vividly because it was one of the first times I spoke in public.

Being slow of thought, when asked to speak somewhere, I generally write out my talk and memorize it before hand. Then I rehearse it several times, practicing enough so that it appears fresh and spontaneous, a skill I developed when working as a tour leader giving the same spiel several times a day to various groups.

When I wrote this journal entry yesterday, I left out a section about how each day, each moment, of our lives is a cloverleaf giving us a chance to move closer to Christ — or to go off in some other direction.

At 6:34 PM, Blogger Sara said...

i needed just this today. thank you. praying for you and ginny.

At 10:22 PM, Blogger agoodlistener said...

Beautifully done. I loved it. Thank you for something I can really hold onto.
Incidentally, there is no chance that Ginny would ever find "a better man".

At 11:19 PM, Blogger Tink said...

Great Post. I appreciate the message and the testimony.

At 12:08 AM, Blogger Darlene said...

I love your rare honesty. I'm excited to get to the other side, but the "in-between" part worries me. I don't want to have to travel a dark tunnel to the light--as crazy as that sounds.

I hate to be alone even for a minute. I guess I'll have to wait and hope God's face is the first thing I see.

At 11:04 PM, Blogger Felisol said...

Dear John C,
a wonderful story you was sharing.
Just that.
From Felisol


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