Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

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A Vagrant Without a Clue

I didn’t report the theft of the money to anyone. I never considered asking anyone for help or advice. To admit the theft would be to admit how stupid I was and face the humiliation of being publicly denounced for my stupidity. That was my state of mind at least.

I don’t remember many details from so long ago, but I packed all my stuff into a trunk and sent it by rail to Toronto. For all I know it’s still sitting in the baggage storage there. And I bought myself a ticket to Ottawa. I didn’t have any purpose or goal in mind; I didn’t have a clue. I just wanted to get away. What did I want to get away from? I didn’t have a clue.

I still had some money and I spent a couple months in a seedy hotel. I walked the city, the paths along the Rideau Canal, around Parliament Hill and the ByWard Market. I did a lot of reading. People I avoided. I was still wrapped in my protective wadding, seeing, watching, but not a part of anything that was happening around me.

When the money had about run out I spent a night or two at a men’s shelter. Then I decided to hitchhike to Toronto. I didn’t have a clue where I would go in Toronto or what I would do. Maybe something would work out.

I must have gotten a ride that took me almost to Smith’s Falls. I don’t remember; all I remember is walking down the highway near Smith’s Falls and getting a ride from there that took me right into Toronto. The man who picked me up was disappointed. Driving up from behind I must have looked like a girl as I hadn’t had a hair cut for several months. Before he dropped me off he gave me money for a haircut.

Here I was in downtown Toronto, still with no money and still without a clue. I was hanging around one of the big stores to keep warm when a young police officer asked to see my identification. He was startled when he saw my name and showed me his identification. His last name was Goodenough! He kindly advised me to move on and try to find a proper place to sleep and keep warm. I had no clue how to find such a place.

A night or two later a couple of homeless men led me to an abandoned house where we could at least have a little shelter for the night. In the middle of the night men with flashlights discovered us. They were police officers and they hauled us off to jail.

The next morning we were summoned to appear in court on charges of vagrancy. When my turn came a Salvation Army officer intervened and said he would take responsibility for me. The judge discharged me into his care. I was taken to the Salivation Army men’s shelter and led to curtained off space with a proper bed.

I don’t know how long I stayed there. It was warm, the food was decent and I dimly remember hearing a gospel message or two in their chapel. Not that the gospel registered on me in my state of mind. People sometimes came to the Salvation Army looking for workers for a day. I remember going out with a few other guys to distribute flyers in a prosperous looking part of the city. I was intrigued bythe houses; remember – I had wanted to be an architect. I wondered what they looked like inside and what kind of people lived in them. The guys I was with had no patience for that kind of dreamy talk. The more flyers they could distribute, the more money they would make. This was my first time doing something like this and I didn’t do all that great a job of keeping up with them.

A few days later the officer in charge of the shelter asked me to come into his office. He told me that the Salvation Army operates a missing persons service and through that service my parents had found out where I was. He dialed their number and let me talk to my mother. A few days later I was on the train again, going home to Saskatchewan.

How fast can you run?

In my last post, I spoke of living where the deer and the antelope roam. The antelope part was referring to the animal below, which I have always called a pronghorn antelope. Now it is reported that it is not a true antelope at all and should simply be called a pronghorn. Small herds of pronghorns are frequently seen on the grasslands in the southern part of Saskatchewan, but they are more people shy than mule deer and thus not a problem around farm yards.

antelope-193273_640Pronghorns have been clocked at speeds that suggest they might be the only animal on earth that could outrun a cheetah. I am just as happy that we do not have cheetahs around here to test that out.

People run from danger in a variety of ways. Frank Jones*, a frequent visitor in a congregation where we were members some years ago, ran from his native Wales to Canada to get away from something. When asked what it was, he would only say, “Nobody will ever know what happened back there.” If pressed further, he would express the certainty that a merciful God would overlook whatever it ws he had done. Perhaps, but it seemed that Frank had run a long way and yet his trouble was still with him, even if no one else knew what it was.

There was a point in my later twenties when I seriously considered running away from my troubles. The young lady who had promised to marry me was having second thoughts, at my place of business I was being blamed for the dishonesty of the person I had replaced. The memory of an earlier time when I had run away from a problem convinced me that taking to the road would not be a solution. I couldn’t run away from myself.

Instead, I ran to Jesus. Things changed after that – I found that many of the the people who were doing business with me already understood the situation and the suspicions of others began to melt away. And in just one more month that young lady and I will have been married for 44 years.

Frank Jones wasn’t running away from his problem, he was trying to run away from himself. No matter how fast or how far you run, you cannot escape from yourself. Or from God. You will meet Him someday and He will have a record of all that you have ever done and you will finally recognize the justness of His judgement.

It doesn’t have to that way. You can run to the Saviour and have the record wiped clean through His blood.

*Not his real name

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