Come As You Are, But Don’t Leave That Way
On Sunday evening, November 20th, our family was heading home after a wonderful Thanksgiving Psalm Sing in Lafayette, our hearts full of the grace and wonder of God. As we drove east on SR 26, I noticed ahead a car off the right side of the road with headlights pointed at us. As we passed by at 45 mph (slowing to try and see in the dark what was going on), we realized this car was down in a ditch about five feet below the road. We stopped, turned around and drove back. Jamey and I hopped out of the van into the cold, dark night to investigate, while Miriam took the wheel to try and position our vehicle more safely on this two-lane road.
We came upon a Chevy Malibu with its tail end wrapped around a telephone pole. In the dark it was at first difficult to see if anyone was in the car, but as we dropped down into the ditch and started yelling the passenger door opened and out stumbled a man about thirty years of age, the door closing behind him. He was dressed in boots, blue jeans and a leather jacket, with five ear rings adorning his left ear, and he was cursing up a storm. We found out his name was Rob and inquired if he was all right. He assured us he was uninjured. He again cursed and used the Lord’s name in vain at having wrecked his stepfather’s car. It was only then that we heard cries from the back seat. We realized children were in there.
They were Rob’s five year-old daughter and eight-year-old son. At first it seemed that Rob was just going to leave them in there, but when I pointed out that the pole had crushed the back of the car between them and that they were sitting on shattered glass, he swore again and then worked to extricate them from the car. Fortunately, from all we could see they had escaped injury as well. His adorable, sobbing daughter sat on my lap as we struggled to find and get her coat and shoes on in the dark. His son stood there sullenly, and I could see from the headlights of our van now pointed over the scene the look of distrust and disgust that should not be present on any son’s face as he watches his dad.
As Rob called his stepfather on his cell phone, who lived nearby, to come to bring them home, we put the shivering children in our van to warm up as they waited. In the process of helping, two, open, sixteen-ounce beer cans between the front seats confirmed the hunch the wrecked car, Rob’s demeanor, and his son’s look had given me. Rob had been headed east, lost control in his drunkenness, done a 180, and then walloped the back end of his car around the telephone pole. As we waited for the help to arrive, and as many passing cars slowed down or stopped as people offered help which Rob declined, I confronted him.
I told him that he had been drinking and had nearly taken his life and his children’s in the process, which he acknowledged. As he stood there lighting up one cigarette after another, it was clear that he was not so drunk as to be completely unaware of what was happening. I explained that I was a pastor, and that his swearing at God was blaming the wrong party and offensive to God. Rob told me he was returning from having picked up his children from his wife, who had left him for another after ten years of marriage. He had also been to church that very morning, the “Harley-Davidson Church,” that makes bikers like him feel welcomed by telling them “come as you are.” The way he explained it, his going to church and his drinking were for the same thing – to help him get over losing his wife.
On the roadside I told Rob that God certainly welcomes all to come despite their appearance, but if they do not leave inwardly changed by their encounter with Christ, which was obvious in his case, then something is dreadfully wrong either with the one preaching or listening, or both. I told him that the Lord of heaven had sent a preacher along right then to call him out of the mess he was making of his life. As we looked at the totaled car, Rob heard that it’s one thing to come to God with your life a wreck, but it would be foolish to leave it that way.
As we parted, I prayed for Rob and his family’s salvation, and tell you this to ask you to do the same. And let us join together in telling sinners that they can come to Christ as they are, wrecked lives and all, but they certainly cannot leave that way, for far greater judgments await those who spurn His salvation.