Out of the ditch

Growing up in Jackson, Georgia we got bored on the weekends. We didn’t have a mall, movie theater, or putt-putt course. But one perk about Jackson was a rainy day because we had a lot of dirt roads and four-wheel trucks. 

We called it mud-bogging. This particular Friday afternoon, we met in a local parking lot. A crew of guys brought their trucks. Most of them were in eleventh grade, and I was a tenth grader, and I wanted to impress them. 

My friend Robert had this white truck, tiny but mighty. We called it the Mighty Max. Now, I didn’t have a truck. I had a car that got 37 miles to the gallon. My friend Robert asked, “Will, do you want to drive the Mighty Max?” 

Robert held up the keys, and all the other eleventh graders were watching. One of them had a big wad of tobacco in his cheek. 

“You have driven when we’ve been mud-bogging before, right?” Brian asked. 

I said, “Of course I have.” I was lying through my teeth. 

“Well, do you want a chew while you drive?” I had never had tobacco before and said, “You better believe I do.” I dug through this foil package of tobacco like I was digging for fishing worms and put a wad of it in my mouth. 

I said, “Load up!” I drove to the edge of this muddy road with the other trucks. It was a monsoon, and I could barely see out the windshield. I tapped the gas, and the Mighty Max purred. 

Robert said, “Stay in the ruts. You won’t slide if you do. And whatever you do, don’t hit the breaks.” 

I gunned it, and we were off. We were bumping along. Mud was flying. I felt like Dale Earnheart (even though I never watched Racing). We were a half mile in, and that tobacco started to go to my head, and I was dizzy. This time, I stomped on the gas and thought I’d show off a little. Suddenly there was no tension in the wheel. No matter where I turned, the tires were not grabbing, and we were fishtailing. I slammed on the brakes. The truck spun, and the front lunged into the bank and jerked me into the wheel. We were all ok, but the front wheel sank ten inches deep into the mud, and the impact from the curb dented Robert’s truck.

I hopped out of the truck and buried my head in my hands. My dad was a prison warden, and while mud bogging was fun, it was also illegal. The tobacco was setting in, and I was getting sick. One of the boys said, “Dude, you got four feet of air. That was awesome.” 

At this point, I imagined the scowl on my dad’s face. I almost cried. Robert said, “You’ll be a legend tomorrow at school.” 

I said, “Or we can tell everyone it was you.” I took that tobacco out of my cheek and threw it out the window. I’ve never been mud-bogging again. 

It was the most helpless feeling. The truck was stuck, and it was because of me. I called my dad. He came out, and because he was the warden, all my other friends hopped in their trucks and left. He looked at the truck and then at me. He said, “Will, if you think I’m mad, wait til your mama finds out.” Then he said, “I’m not happy, but I love you. Let’s get you out of the ditch.” He called a friend with a winch, hooked it up to the truck, and pulled out the Mighty Max. The worst part is he made me tell my mother. I walked into the kitchen with my shoes caked in mud. My dad said, “Tell her.” Panicked, my mom looked at me and said, “Tell me what?” And I said, “Jackson needs a movie theater.” 

That experience taught me a thing or two about sin and salvation. I wanted to impress these eleventh graders, but I knew it was wrong. I didn’t know what I was doing when it came to mud-bogging or chewing tobacco, and I could’ve gotten hurt much worse than I did. Trying to impress people got me into trouble. But I also knew I could still call my dad. He wasn’t happy, but I knew he loved me, and I knew he would help. The same is true for life. When we mess up, there are consequences. Sin has consequences. We will all find our lives stuck in a ditch because of our sinful choices. But we learn from those mistakes. God will never waste a mistake. Here’s the good news. There’s a merciful God out there ready to save us and pull us out of the mud every time. That’s called grace. This grace goes with us wherever we go in our lives. My father’s words are the words I can imagine our heavenly Father would say, “I’m not happy, but I still love you. Let’s get you out of the ditch.”

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