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Joy Ride
by Terry Michaels
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We never planned on joy riding; it just happened. Sin is like that, isnít it? You donít ever have to go looking for it, it finds you. And unless youíre willing to flee from sin, sin will claim you for its own. But sin is tricky. It does not force anything upon anyone. It woos you with thrills and adventure. It offers you the ride of a lifetime. But that ride always results in a crash. Someone gets hurt. Someone pays. If not you, then someone else and the cost is rarely cheap. Thatís the lesson I learned when Jimmy and I went for a joy ride.

The evening began innocently enough. We were on a religious pursuit if you will, walking to the Mustard Seed, a Christian coffeehouse. Somehow we strayed off the path. It was Jimmyís idea but I followed him every step of the way. We were almost at our destination, no more than an eighth of a block away. But when we passed by the Magic Muffler parking lot we got other ideas. Once Jimmy set eyes upon all those shiny vehicles there was no stopping him. He had to look. He suggested I also come along. There were a variety of classics in the big lot, parked like pretty maids all in a row while resting in the shade of a hideous purple garage. Plus there were more besides in front of the auto restoration shop next door. Naturally we were curious. Weíd both be in the market for a vehicle soon so it was imperative that we do a little preliminary research and find out which cars would best serve.

The restoration shop offered a number of exquisite possibilities: vintage Rolls Royces, antique Bentleys and early model Jaguars that were fixed up like brand new. Each was showroom quality. Iíd never be able to afford such a luxury but Jimmy didnít rule out the idea. We opened them one by one. We smelled the leather interiors. We ran our hands over the velvety seats and felt around every contour of the smooth dashboards with our curious little fingers. We sat inside and tested for comfort and headroom. We inspected every last control, knob, button, handle and lever. Jimmy took inventory of all the high-end features. I checked everything mechanical: brakes, steering and mileage. Everything met our criteria for comfort, style and functionality. The only thing left to check was performance. So together, Jimmy and I went on a mad hunt for the keys. Yes, keys! You canít test performance without those little jobs can you? So we searched. I investigated the glove compartment while Jimmy checked behind the visors. We pulled up the car mats but they were not there. We scanned every crack and crevice but as hard as we searched we could not find one solitary key for the RollsÖ or the JagÖ or even the Bentley. Our hunt was not over though, not even by a long shot. It was decided we would lower our standards and venture over to where the inferior vehicles were parked. After all, we were mainly interested in transportation, something to get us from point A to point B. At fifteen status symbols can be compromised. Weíd upgrade in a couple years when image mattered.

The muffler shop did offer a more modest selection of vehicles. They didnít smell of new leather, they bore the stench of old axle grease. And they lacked all those fine features of the models from the restoration shop. But they did have something the Rolls didnít have, or the Jag or the Bentley. You guessed it, they had keys! Youíre feeling the enthusiasm here, arenít you? We felt it too. After much deliberation Jimmy and I agreed upon the Datsun. It was newer than any of the luxury autos next door and had much less mileage. With four doors and child safety locks in the back it was also very practical. How could we go wrong? Jimmy assumed the driverís seat and I took shotgun. Neither of us knew exactly how to drive but Jimmy had watched his dad work the controls many times before.

His inexperience stuck out like a purple muffler but Jimmy managed to crank up the ignition and shift gears into drive. Next thing I knew he was pulling out onto the boulevard.

We had no intentions of stealing the Datsun, mind you. It was understood we would return it as soon as we were finished with our test drive. And that is exactly what we did do. We cautiously cruised down the seven mile stretch of Van Nuys Boulevard then drove straight back. When we returned to Magic Muffler I realized Jimmy had not paid enough attention to his dadís parking skills. He didnít miss the parking space by much. And had that Rolls Royce not been in the way I am quite certain he would have made it. But somehow the Datsun collided with that wonderfully restored vintage luxury automobile. Though this was a most unfortunate incident it did help me with my research. I noted for future reference that Rolls Royces fare much better in auto collisions than Datsuns.

The Rolls did indeed suffer some minimal damage. Jimmy put a handsome crease in the right rear fender and a smashed tail light dangled sadly on a single wire. The Datsun didnít look so good. The entire front end was smashed up like an accordion after a drunken polka party. ďOh my gosh!Ē I exclaimed after the crash, ďWhat do we do?Ē With eyes wide as hubcaps, Jimmy responded with one word, ďRun!!!Ē And that is precisely what we didÖ all the way to the Mustard Seed. Alas, we were back on track on our religious pursuitÖ praying we would never get caught for our dastardly deed.

* * * * *

I recently read a story about the late, great preacher Dr. Donald Barnhouse. After delivering a sermon on the consequences of sin a young fellow told him that his conscience never ever bothered him. Dr. Barnhouse looked him in the eye and asked, ďWhat would happen if I dropped an eight-hundred pound weight on a dead man? Would it bother him?Ē He explained to the young man that if sin didnít bother him it was most likely because he was dead.

Though I was a sinner, apparently I was still alive. I never felt right about what happened at Magic Muffler. It didnít set well with my conscience to destroy property and just bail. So the next time Jimmy suggested joy riding I declined. But Jimmy told other kids about the opportunities available at the muffler shop. And those kids told their friends. Before long the Magic Muffler lot was surrounded by a tall chain link fence. Two salivating Doberman Pinchers awaited anyone daring enough to climb over.

Sin does have a way of finding you and unless you flee from it things can get pretty messy. Itís much like when someone throws a rock into a mud puddle, thereís that splatter affect where innocent bystanders take the hit. Sin also has a tendency to splatter on other people even though the real culprit may come out looking clean. Thatís the greatest tragedy of all; innocent parties are often the ones who pay the highest price while the offender seemingly gets off scot-free. That was certainly true in our case. My sin and Jimmyís didnít cost us anything, at least on the surface. But others sure paid dearly. The price tag on our joyride was the repair of a Rolls and a Datsun, the installation of a tall fence and the purchase of a couple Dobies. Thatís a hefty price to pay for two mischievous kids to cruise the boulevard.

The Bible is chock-full of testimonials which attest to the splattering affects of sin. One good example is Abraham. God promised this old codger that he and his barren wife, Sarah, would have a son together. But, as time wore on, the anxious couple grew increasingly impatient. Sarahís maid, Hagar, was soon introduced into the picture to ease their frustrations. The result was Ishmael and his offspring. The Old Testament records a long and painful history of Godís chosen people and how they suffered at the hands of the sons of Ishmael. Even today the repercussions of Abrahamís blunder are felt worldwide. What happened in a small tent has splattered our entire globe. But it wonít be long before the true Promised Son cleans it all up for good.

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