It was the weirdest hitchhiking trip ever. Was I on the right path? When I entered the Central Valley, I got another ride, but when my exit came, he got out of the car also, as I retrieved my backpack. “May I smell your feet?” “No” “Would you kick me?” “No” “Can we have sex?” Each came with an offer of payment. “Boy, you are hard to please.” Since I had my backpack, I felt safe to give him clear firm answers. A few rides later, I was asking a driver about this Christianity that I, a lifelong agnostic, had decided to try out just one week before. He started into a rant, concluding with “I have just proven you wrong, there is no God.” I tucked away these two encounters and wondered.
By the next morning, I entered Nevada. One driver warned me that we may have a blowout. Then he started pointing out the legal houses of prostitution that we passed. He explained that he was the State agent ironing out problems between the houses and military personnel. It got weirder. We had the blowout in the middle of nowhere. Since I had been traveling over 24 hours and was dirty, I offered to change the tire. He looked almost freaked out and declined. Pulling on white gloves, he proceeded to change the tire (and ruin the gloves.)
He let me off in the last city before the empty desert in eastern Nevada. I sat at the edge of the highway, eating lunch and reading while various of the city’s folk came and told me to give up, I would never get a ride. Totally at peace and reading, I was startled by honking and a voice calling, “Want a ride?” It was a couple who met over the book, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, and decided to adventure together. Again, they had yet another unique spin on my emerging religious feelings. Something in me had compared what I had read in the Bible and said, “This is not right.” Remember, I had no contact with any Christians for months or years before I made my decision.
Later, at the end of a ride with a Mormon, he treated me to a meal at a gas stop at nowhere Wyoming. As we walked out so I could retrieve my backpack, a hard-line Christian accosted us with a tract. We grumbled about that as we parted, and I got on the freezing on ramp in Wyoming, at 2 am, in mid-March. Jumping up and down to stay warm, suddenly three cars pulled over. One person was the hardliner, but it was a driver that I talked to for four hours while everyone else snoozed. His gentle answers made sense, warming my heart. They were off to a conference, but one person had paid but had to cancel at the last moment. They offered me this free weeks stay at this conference, but not having learned to listen to God yet, I turned them down.
It is amazing how people walk down such different paths. I was left disgusted by all the people I mentioned before the three carloads, but were they worse than I? The story of God straightening me out is for another time.
Tomorrow, I am posting on my study page, a glimpse of Rom 1, which this story illustrates. Paul hooks us with looking at “those weird people” so we feel better before reversing the picture in Rom 2, in order to lead us to a high point in Romans, Chap 3