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White Vans and a Pastor's Son

When I was younger, during a particularly dreary time in my life, I decided to go on an adventure. I figured I wasn't a very content human being, and doing something unexpected might cure my blues. Quite frankly, I don't really have a lot of memories during a large chunk of my young adult life, but this one I remember quite well.

I decided to pack up a my bag, grab whatever money I had in my room, bring my Visa with its huge spending limit of $500 and start walking. The world was ready for my wonderful undertaking. I made it to the outskirts of the town I was living in, and decided it was time to increase the thrill of my adventure. I put my thumb out and started to hitchhike. Oh yeah, now I was living.

Of course, for the sheltered baptist man that I was, this was a huge moment of triumph. "Screw you world, screw your rules, I'm hitchhiking baby!" I don't remember how long I waited until someone picked me up, but eventually someone pulled over.

Now, I don't know about you, but when I was a kid, people always had this strange fear of people that drive vans. Specifically, white vans. I remember this boy that lived by my house as a kid told me this great tale of how someone in a white van had chased him all over the school playground, he had run for his life and survived. I am not sure if this story was true or not. As I recall, I believe I "investigated" the school playground for tire marks (you need to know, that when I was a kid, the movie Cop and a Half had given me the false hope that as an adolescent I could fulfill my lifelong dream and become a full fledged police officer early) and didn't find any. However, this story of the mysterious white van had always made me feel uneasy.

And there she was - a white. van.

Thinking back, I probably should have never hitchhiked. I probably shouldn't have left my house without telling anyone where I was going. I probably should have just booked a vacation like any normal human being. But nope, there I was, a young man, getting a ride with someone for who all I know, was some serial killer.

I wasn't scared. Fear isn't the right word to describe how I was feeling. I was numb. Numb from a life that felt meaningless. When your mind walks in circles and convinces you life is pointless, numbness turns into exhaustion. Exhausted people don't make wise choices, they just walk around as if in the shadow of their own tiredness.

So there I was, a numb, tired young man getting into a white van.

When I got into the van, I noticed the back was full of child seats. "Good. A family man. Family men are good guys right?"

The car ride is something I will never forget. He asked me some questions, about where I was going. I remember having enough common sense to not tell him too much. I told him I had just decided to get out of town, and asked him if he could drop me off in London. He said sure.

It was at this point, that he reached around to his back seat, and grabbed a beer and started downing it.

That's right. White van. Man who picks up hitchhikers. Cooler of beer currently being drunk while driving.

A good ten minutes later, the first can of beer hit the van floor, and another one was in his hand ready to go.

Are you kidding me? The guy was drinking and driving. What was he thinking? I mean, at the time, I didn't even know people did that anymore. You need to understand, young Matt didn't drink, like at all. He hated alcohol. It was the demon liquor, the pathway to Satan's rule on earth. It was pure evil.

I could see the headline now. Stupid Kid Dies in Car Crash. The next line would read: "Got in white van - public stunned as to how he didn't know any better."

I was going to die. All because of my stupid adventure. I would die, meet the Lord, and try to explain to him why I died running away from my problems. I would probably have to wait in line to talk to Jesus, behind all the people who died in Africa from some disease trying to help people. How embarrassing.

One thing was for certain, I wasn't tired anymore.

We got closer to town and I asked him to let me off. I got out of the van and kept walking. You would have thought I would have learned my lesson. Maybe, just maybe, God was trying to let me know something. But the stubborn man who set out on his adventure continued on.

When I made it into town, I had enough change to ride the city bus to the Greyhound station downtown. I had never ridden a city bus. There was this very friendly girl who helped me get downtown. Riding a bus for the first time, was rather confusing.

You need know, I grew up here. And when I got older, and moved to a bigger city, I had always just walked, or ridden my bike to wherever I needed to go.

And so I made it. I had survived the white van. I had traversed on the big city bus.

I often think about how my life would have turned out had I gotten on that Greyhound bus and ridden to God only knows where. You see, when I was standing outside the station, I heard a clear, distinct voice call out to me. He said: "The darkness you feel in your heart will follow you wherever you go."

I'll never forget how defeated I felt when I called my dad and asked him to come pick me up. I'll never forget that car ride back home. There was silence. There was no judgement. There was a father who had put up with so much from an absurd son, and yet just loved him no matter what.

Every time I read the story of the prodigal son, I think of young Matt. I remember feeling dead, and then alive. I remember the love of God which healed me.

I decided to take a normal person vacation at my Aunt and Uncles house for a few weeks and just rest after that. I played paintball with my cousins, read some wonderful books, listened to some music, and most importantly, came face to face with the state of my heart.

So in conclusion: Fear white vans. Don't hitchhike. Call home.


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