Yesterday, I was on my way to deliver in Montana and had to stop to get gas and food near Springfield, Illinois. I found a truck stop and went inside. There my attention was immediately grabbed by an odd looking gentleman. He was wired and bouncing from one foot to the other. My first gut response was to stay clear of him, for this was just the kind of guy who would come up and engage me with some weird conversation.
The man was balding on top, but his hair was long and silver in the back. He had it tied into some strange sort of pigtails. And he wore pants that looked like a cross between blue jeans and sweat pants. He was holding a coke and a bag of chips, and he came up to the line at the counter and looked disgusted at the prospect of waiting.
"Hey," he said to the men standing in line in front of him. "Hey guys?"
The other men in line turned to look at him. One of them said, "What do you need?"
"Are you a Christian?" he asked.
"Are you a church going man? All of you. Do you believe in God?" They all nodded. "Jesus loves you, can I please cut in line in front of you. My old foot in acting up, and I just don't think I can stand for very long. God will bless you for it." The men in line sort of reluctantly stepped aside, and this nutty-looking fellow stepped right up to the counter. I've seen a lot out on the road, and run into what I call "Bill's people" every single day. But this was a new one for the books. I turned and went into the adjacent restaurant, which was a Chester's Fried Chicken.
I stood in line and thought about Karen. It had been just over a week since I was at her house, and I had been playing the scene with her in my mind repeatedly. Wishing I would have handled things differently. Wishing I hadn't said the things I said. I wanted so badly to make things right.
I was next in line and getting ready for my turn to order. The man I had just seen on the other side of the truck stop came striding into Chester's purposefully, and walked past the line and stepped right up to the counter. "Is the manager here? Excuse me, I need to see the manager." The girl behind the counter stared at him, then nodded and walked into the back. "God bless you, sweet gal."
A minute or two later, the girl came back, followed by a short, chubby black man wearing a tie. "Someone here need to see me?"
The guy with pigtails leaned over the counter and said, "Are you the manager?"
"Yes I am."
"Are you a Christian?"
"Are you a man of God?"
"Jesus loves you."
"I know he does," said the manager.
"He died for you on the cross."
"Yes he did," the manager enthused.
"I can see you are a good man with charity in your heart. Can you give me some of those sweet biscuits that you make here? I'm a little tight on funds, but I promised Phillip I'd bring him some biscuits. And I might just eat one myself. In the name of the Father."
"Amen, brother, amen!"
"I guess I could get you some biscuits."
"Hallelujah, I have found a believer."
The manager was getting fired up. "Yes you have. I know you have."
"Praise, praise!" This man lifted his hands towards Heaven and closed his eyes, looking a lot like he was about to cry. The manager hurried into the back, then came out with a bag full of biscuits. "You will be blessed, God will shine his light on you." And with that, this man grabbed the bag and went out the door.
I ordered my food and sat and ate it. Frankly, I was grateful that the man didn't interact with me. Because I am usually a magnet for these semi-crazy folks. When I was done, I went to the bathroom, then out to my car to get some gas. While I was pumping the gas, I heard a voice behind me.
"Are you a Christian?"
I turned and saw that the man had found me. "Yes, I am."
"Are you a man of God?"
"I believe in God."
"No, that's not what I asked you. Are you a servant of the Lord Almighty, do you have love in your heart?"
I didn't know how to proceed. I did not like what this guy was doing. So I stuck my hand out to shake with him. "My name is Bill Thomas."
"Brother, I didn't ask your name. I asked if you're right with God."
"And what do you believe?"
"John 3:16. Its the foundation of my faith."
The man began to laugh heartily. "Oh my, my, my. That is just the tip of the iceberg. If that's all you believe in, you are in big trouble, my friend."
"I have faith."
"Then prove it. God wants you to give me $20 to help me get down the road."
"Funny, God didn't mention that to me."
He looked like I had slapped him in the face. "Don't you dare blaspheme! The Lord will surely smite you."
I finished pumping my gas and put the nozzle back into its cradle. I said nothing.
"I'm speaking to you sir, I expect the courtesy of a reply."
"No, I won't give you $20."
"You are a sinner!"
"I'm pretty sure we are all sinners."
"How dare you!"
"Really? Listen pal, you've already got to cut in line and a free bag of biscuits. I'd say God has been pretty good to you today. But I have a car to deliver, and I don't have time for you anymore."
He pointed his finger at me with scorn. "You are turning your back on God's commandments, you will burn in a lake of hellfire."
I shrugged. "That's your opinion. Keep right on doing what you're doing, and someday you may have a conversation with God about it. Meanwhile, adios!"
I got into my car and drove away. He began cussing at me, but I quickly tuned him out. I think that everyone believes something different, and I think we all have a right to our opinion. But it seemed a lot to me like this guy was trying to use God to get what he wanted, and that just rubbed me the wrong way.