Darkness is NOT necessarily caused by the absence of light! Darkness can be generated by indifference, over-confidence, and an attitude that defies 'common sense'. This was my self-created 'pocket of darkness' as I drove my 1960 Oldsmobile toward the Northwest on Highway 35, between Gallipolis and Jackson, Ohio in the wee hours of a Sunday night, late in 1963. As was my 'practice', I was running on 'fumes'. I had chosen to challenge the common sense of purchasing gasoline in Gallipolis, against the attitude that I could 'make it' to Jackson.
Events happened swiftly. I passed a farmhouse near the highway that I had not noticed before. The house was aglow with light, and before I could wonder why those people were still awake, at THIS hour, the Olds coughed twice...and died. I coasted to the shoulder of the two-lane highway and berated myself with a totally unflattering statement. Then words flashed across my awareness..."The House...go to the House!"
I glanced over my left shoulder, aware that I was barely past the well-lighted farmhouse. I got out of the car and walked toward the light, which seemed to have a beckoning, welcoming quality. As I stepped onto the porch, the front door swung open, and framed in the light from the doorway was a large, kindly man wearing the clothes of a farmer. "Out of gas, are you?" he asked. Sheepishly, I admitted to going past three all-nigt gas stations down the road. "Happens all the time, folks thinking they can make it to Jackson on fumes. Not much out here, once you leave Gallipolis."
By this time he was out of the house and, from somewhere, had already produced a five-gallon gas can. He motioned in the direction of an outbuilding and I followed him. He walked to a large tank in a corner, filled the can, removed a funnel from a shelf and walked outside and toward the thirsty Oldsmobie. I offered to help carry some of his load, but he only smiled...kindly, patiently and continued walking. When we reached the car, he poured the gasoline in the tank, saving a little for the carburetor in case it needed 'priming'. He was really on top of things. He seemed to have a special knowledge of the 'possibilities'. I got into the car, pumped the accelerator twice..as he had suggested...and the engine roared to life! As I got back out of the car, he met me by the door, shook my hand and said ever so kindly, "Thank you so much for letting me help you tonight." I did the most natural thing I could think of...fumbled for some money which he refused, with just a shadow of sadness, I thought. He walked away and I followed and shook his hand again and thanked HIM for HIS kindness to me. I made it all the way to Columbus on the fuel he gave me. (It seemed that gasoline was going to last forever!)
I made that trip for several months after that Sunday night. Every three weeks I would head South on Friday, hitting that stretch of road in daylight. On Sunday, I would be going North in darkness. I altered my 'practice' of thinking I could get by without gasoline, but I still looked toward where I had stopped that night. In daylight or darkness, I was not able to find that house again. I thought it would be a nice gesture to stop and chat without being a late night imposition on his generosity. The place, quite simply, was not to be found. But that dark Sunday night in late 1963, it WAS there and a Voice in the Darkness pointed the way for me...the way to having a physical need met in a gesture of good-will, caring, and comfort. I recall that message across the years and the miles, and in the absence of being able to thank the Ohio farmer, I find myself, even today, remembering,and thanking the One who orchestrated the crossing of our paths.
Years later, in 1978...and again, late into the night, I was driving a bright-red company-owned truck West on Interstate 40, between Knoxville and Crossville, Tennessee. I was running on 'empty'. The TRUCK was full, but MY gauge had pegged out. My priorities included NOTHING but 'getting ahead'. I was spiritually bankrupt, floundering in a mess I had created. I needed the job I was performing, even though I was in over my head. I had a fear of failing, not realizing I had already accomplished THAT, but I NEEDED that job and 'making it work' was taking command of me.
As the truck climbed easily up the Eastern slope of Rockwood Mountain, I envied the flawless, effortless performance of the machine. I wished, for myself, such an unerring accomplishment. (It IS bad when one is jealous of a truck,or wishes he WERE one!) As I neared the top of the mountain...where the time zones change, and the wide expanse of the Cumberland Plateau stretches toward the West, I SENSED that the door on the passenger side had briefly opened then closed. A PRESENCE was in the seat beside me, and I was not afraid. I kept my eyes on the road and listened to the words of the Master, as He spoke clearly...audibly to me. His message was not in "King James' language, but in terms I was used to hearing. He said, "You are hanging your hopes on temporary values. Even if you achieve what you crave, it will not be the permanent solution you need, and the frustrations you are dealing with now will return. Seek a strong relationship with your Creator. THAT is permanent, and NOT a false hope." Then He was gone. Only then did I look to my right to see the expected empty seat. (For the first time, I wished I had tried a quick peek BEFORE He got out.)
I still pursue the frivilous..enter the 'box-canyons' of life, take the 'dead-ends' of near-failure...even go the 'wrong-way' on a 'ONE WAY', but I can count on a 'spiritual adjustment' when I recall the Voice in the Darkness as it came to me on that dark night of the soul on Rockwood Mountain. My day-by-day dreams may be trivial and self-centered, but I KNOW, and HE KNOWS, the Source I turn to for my hope in that which is Eternal.
Occasionally, now, I travel Rockwood Mountain and find myself hoping He will get in and ride with me a while. Then I remember...He got in before we left home and will be traveling with us all the way...coming AND going!
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Howard, this was just wonderful. It had so many interesting elements in it and a great message. But I think the one line that hit me between the eyes was the wonderful response of the gentleman who helped you that night. "Thank you so much for letting me help you tonight." Wow! There's a lesson in that attitude alone. With love, Deb