Mark Johnston, Connections Pastor
My parents were married and childless for almost 15 years before i was born. They had gone through several ‘lives’ by the time i came around, and early in their marriage they were farmers. The first little place they had was north of Barry, Texas, and during their time there, they became close friends with the people who owned the larger place next to them.
Their names were Henry Ray and Ethylene, and my parents remained great friends with them throughout the years, even after they gave up farming and moved to Dallas. Every few months, we’d go and spend a Saturday with them on their farm, hanging out and listening to stories from their past. I’d fish and play with their grandkids, Tim and Sheila, who i thought were my cousins until i was probably 10 or 12.
I loved them and loved going there. The problem with going to visit them, was that we had to drive home at night.
There were two or three ways to get there, and my dad, since he missed living in the country, didn’t necessarily take the shortest distance home. In fact, he’d usually take the pooh bear way both directions, so he could look at crops and land and trees and cows, and generally not see houses every few feet.
The main way we’d come home had this hard 90 degree curve. Now, i liked scary stories growing up. I loved The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery, and this short-lived 70’s show called Ghost Story, which was basically, well…stories about ghosts.
On the way home, as we approached the curve, i’d lean forward from my un-seatbelted spot in the back seat. The headlights of our Oldsmobile would hit this rusted out, smashed up 1950s station wagon sitting by the bar ditch in front of the house of a man they had known during their time living there.
Every single time we drove by, my mother, like it was scripted, would say the exact same phrase upon seeing the brown, mangled remains of the car: “I don’t know why Herschel keeps that old car that Ruthelle got killed in…” and as her voice trailed off, my eyes would widen as this ‘death car’ came into full view on the side of the two lane road, under the eerie glow of a nearby light pole. It scared me out of my mind, but i couldn’t look away! I would envision old Ruthelle’s ghost climbing out of it, or worse, imagine seeing her out of the corner of my eye sitting next to me in the back seat like a scene from one of those TV shows. My heart would race a thousand miles an hour until we’d gotten a safe distance away and my mind would finally start to focus on the Southwest Conference football game or country music on the AM radio in the car.
Apparently Herschel’s wife had died in some horrific car accident many years before, and in his grief, he’d had someone tow the vehicle back to his house where it came to rest in it’s scary spot by the side of the road. I don’t know the details of the story—if he’d been in the car with her and survived, if she’d gone out alone one rainy night and he thought if he’d been there the outcome would have been different…and i was afraid to ask my folks the particulars. All i know is that she died and the car she died in sat there scaring the bejabbers out of me every time we drove by it. That and we never drove by it in the daylight.
As i got older, i came to see the inherent sadness in the story, how he’d been unable to ‘let go’ of his beloved and kept her reminder sitting there for some twenty years. There’s no such thing as ghosts, but in this man’s life he held on to an imaginary one instead of letting go, as if somehow, the car kept her around in a strange way. (In case you’re wondering, he finally remarried when i was teenager and i’m guessing the new wife gave him a ‘me or the car’ ultimatum as part of accepting the proposal, so the wreckage went away and he did move on at some point.)
So, why am i reliving a childhood trauma in the Stonepoint Blog? As far as i know, none of you have your spouse’s deathmobile sitting in your yard.
But is there something from your past that you can’t let go of? Is there some sin that you think is too big for God to forgive, so it keeps sitting there in the weeds as a reminder of your past life? Is there wreckage that you keep around as a reminder of something that you just can’t seem to get rid of? Have you lost something or someone valuable, and you feel so much sadness that you keep reminders of them—mementos that, instead of bringing back happy memories, simply point out the void?
Are there ghosts in your past that you can’t, or won’t face and tell that you don’t believe in them anymore?
There’s hope in Jesus. Stonepoint offers re:generation on Monday nights where other believers who are fighting their own ghosts gather to encourage, admonish and share with one another how hard it is to have someone take away the rusty remains, but how God fills the void when you do. What would it look like to have a life free from those things that have haunted you, to get rid of the junk and wreckage of past relationships and hurts that don’t seem to have an end?
Don’t let twenty years pass by before you let someone drag your old car away.