Disclaimer #1: The statute of limitations has long expired for any and all misdeeds explicitly expressed in, and/or eluded to, in the following post.
Disclaimer #2: To the owner of the car subject to the aforementioned misdeeds in disclaimer #1 and subsequent subject in the following story…yeah, sorry about that.
This story is one of those that stays hidden for many years because of fear. The fear of a swift kick in the butt from your Dad, or punishment in a juvenile delinquent facility if the truth ever squeaked out. I can talk about it now, because, as is clearly stated in disclaimer #1, the statute of limitations has expired. And, I don’t live close enough for my Dad to kick my butt anymore. It’s actually kind of funny now, but it sure wasn’t at the time.
This crazy event took place 22 years ago, back when I was 15 and knew everything. I couldn’t drive yet, but I was getting close. I was kind of in that weird teenage time when you are annoyed that you can’t do whatever you want, whenever you want. That was me. I wasn’t a bad kid, but I remember feeling pretty dang smart. It had been a while since my last slice of humble pie.
The incident occurred on a Friday or Saturday night. As was the tradition in those days, myself and my merry band of buddies had just spent most of the night hanging out playing pool (billiards). That was our traditional go to hang out event. We had a good friend (we will call her Cassie to protect her identity) who generously allowed us to utilize the pool table in her basement. This was probably against her better judgment, but being the thoughtful friends that we were, we invited ourselves over all the time. The girls would watch movies, while we boys would have intense pool tournaments, and pretend we were awesome.
We were all good kids, and had good parents, so, naturally, we all had curfews. We all had the same one- 12 midnight. All of us. However, we were all only 15 and no one had a car, or a driver’s license. This usually meant that one of our parents had to come pick us all up, and systematically drop us all off, all at around 1145 at night. This isn’t exactly cool if you are 15. But, this night would prove to be different.
Whatever possessed us (the boys) that night to decide to walk home is beyond me (the girls were too smart for that). I guess it must have been the cumulative lack of brain power in our 15 year old underdeveloped brains. We were at least smart enough to know that we had to leave before midnight to give ourselves a shot at walking the 7 miles from Santaquin to Payson in order to be home by our curfew. Brilliant idea. Lets walk home, all 7 miles, in the pitch dark, orchard lined back streets with no street lights. What could go wrong? We were awesome like that.
When I say we, I mean there were 7 of us (as far as I remember). Again, to protect the identities of my friends, let’s just call them Brad, Mark, Mo, Blake, Sterling, and Anthony. Anthony only lived a short few blocks away, so he was spared from any culpability or involvement, not that he wouldn’t have been right there with us if given the chance.
That left 6 of us walking home. After a few blocks, myself and “Brad” decided that 7 miles would take longer to walk than we thought. So, we decided we would run home. By running, we would be home early, or at least on time, and by so doing, avoid a royal butt kicking. So we took off, leaving the other 4 guys behind. They were on their own. Remember, this was before cell phones, so calling for a ride after we left “Cassie’s” house wasn’t an option.
We ran straight through and never walked over the next 6.5 miles. And we were on top of the world with how brilliant we were. We were nearly home. But, as fate would have it. Our night was really just beginning. It was at that moment that we discovered what would become the source of our absolute fear for the next several months. We passed an abandoned car, or at least that is what we, in our brilliant 15 year old minds, thought. Never mind the fact that it was parked in cleared away area right by the freeway entrance that most people would recognize as a car pool parking lot. But, oft times, the connection between a 15 year old boy’s eyes and his small underdeveloped brain is blocked by an oversized ego.
Most people with any sense would have walked right by this car, without a second thought. We certainly should have, because we were only about another 3 minutes from being home. But, we were 15, and far from having any sense at all, so, we decided to see if the doors were locked. That’s what any reasonable person would do if they walked past a car that wasn’t theirs night? Nope, we weren’t reasonable. So we checked, and, sure enough, the doors were open. Well, might as well check for keys, right? Yep, lets check. Wow, the keys were in it! So, whats next? Try to start it obviously. So, I tried and tried and tried. But, it wouldn’t start, so I gave up hope. Hope for what I still have no idea. But, then “Brad” tried to start it, and he, actually knowing what a clutch was, was able to get it going. It was obviously a miracle.
So now you have two 15 year olds, without drivers licenses, sitting in a running car at 11:50 at night. So we did what any 15 year old would do in that situation. In our infinite teenage wisdom, and displaying our excellent decision making skills, came up with the most beneficent plan ever conceived. We would serve our fellow man, namely our 4 other walking friends in need, by driving back to them, and giving them a ride back to the spot where we “found” this poor abandoned car.
How thoughtful of us. Then, “Brad” and I (having obviously suffered simultaneous teenage brain infarcts) pulled out of the spot, and proceeded to drive the several miles back to the road where our friends would be, whooping, hollering, and laughing all the way. Life was good. They would be so happy.
Life was good, for another 4 minutes. Then life was not good. Not good at all. We realized about 4 minutes too late that the car we had just borrowed was out of gas. Way out of gas. It stalled in the road about 100 yards from our friends. Great just what we needed. Witnesses. 15 year old boy witnesses.
“Brad” then let the car coast to the side of the road, where we tried desperately and hopelessly to get it started again. We tried for another several minutes, before we realized we would be spending the rest of our lives in a jail cell. Both the brain cells in our heads started firing and wondering what life would be like in juvenile detention.
At that moment our friends walked up and we got hooted out. Sterling especially had a hay day. Anyone that knows him will attest that he can laugh AT someone better than anyone in the whole world. Its a special skill, it’s a gift really. A talent unmatched by anyone in the history of mankind. And he did not disappoint that night. He cackled relentlessly, endlessly, loudly, unrepentantly, and uncontrollably for what seemed like an eternity. We were toast.
Then our brains had to snap back to reality. We then frantically put two and two together and realized that this car was not going to be where the owners left it, when they eventually came back for it. That meant that the cops would be called to help find it. That meant that they would be looking for who took it. That meant that we were in deep do-do. We had to destroy the evidence. So, the brilliant young budding felons that we were, we took our t-shirts and rubbed everywhere we had touched! We had to get rid of our fingerprints! You should have seen us. 6 15 year old kids rubbing every square inch of every handle, door, dash, steering wheel, and fender!
I remember being convinced that the police department had my prints on file because of that one time in cub scouts when we went to the police station and the policeman taught us how they recorded the fingerprints of the criminals as they came in. I was certain that they kept a file of my 9 year old prints just in case. I knew it was only a matter of time. I could run, but I couldn’t hide. I would be making license plates for the rest of my life.
As if becoming a felon guilty of grand theft auto wasn’t enough, this whole incident had taken time. Not only time we didn’t have, but now we were back to almost where we began, now 5 miles from home, and well after our curfew. It was bad. By the time I got back home I fully expected to be strung up, skinned, and left as just a memory and a skid mark in the driveway. I was really late. And I remember getting an earful. Quite an earful. But what could I say? “Sorry Mom and Dad, we would have been back home in time, but instead, we decided to steal a car and drove it back towards Santaquin until it ran out of gas, so we had to abandon it, and then had to run another 5 miles back home.” Yeah right.
So, “Brad” and I waited. We waited for the moment when the cops would knock on our doors, ask for us by name, and read us our miranda rights, and haul us away in cuffs. I remember being scared to death each and every time the doorbell rang, or there was a knock on the door for at least 2 months. No kidding. It wasn’t fun. I lived in continuous fear and anxiety. There was also the very real threat of one of our 4 other friends (witnesses) blabbing all over town with the funniest story ever. Which, would inevitably lead to our arrest and conviction. Thanks guys.
But, it never came. Thankfully, the police record of my 9 year old prints had been misplaced. And we were spared a life scarred by years spent in jail. But, a lesson was learned that night. A lesson that has sunk in over the last 22 years, and still teaches me even today. It was not fun living like that. Worrying constantly about the repercussions of my decision that night. I didn’t want to do anything like that ever again. I couldn’t take it.
As I look back on that story of that night, and all the things I learned from it, I can see similarities to a lot of our lives. Its almost like that 2 hour saga is an abridgment of a life story that has taken a wrong turn. Lets look a little closer at what happened and phrase it only slightly differently. Looking back, this is how I could describe it. Remember, there are lessons, even gospel lessons, in every aspect of our lives. Even when we “borrow” a car without asking.
Listen to it again, this way…
After a great night, I started on the path back home just as I was supposed to. I even decided to hurry to make sure I was home on time. I was pointed in the right direction, committed, determined, and headed to where I should have been. I had traveled 99% of the way on the correct and straight path, without even a slight variation. But, at the last minute, I saw something slightly off the correct course. I knew it was off course, I knew better, but I was curious. So I ignored my better judgment. I decided to just take a moment to check it out. I would be home in just a minute anyway. No harm in checking.
But then the distraction sucked me in. I was hooked. I traded the security of being home on time, for the temporary thrill of the new and exciting. I had ignored the whisperings of my conscience. And before I even realized what had really happened, I was speeding backwards in exactly the wrong direction. And the forces that pulled me in that wrong direction abandoned me, and dumped me far from home.
That temporary, fleeting, and false excitement had deceived me. I fell for it. And it made for a long, even painful road back home. I made it, and we all can make it, even if we mess up, and the lessons we learn the hard way, sometimes stick better in our minds. But, it would have been so much easier if I had just finished that last 1% without even thinking about that distraction on the side of the road. And that is the lesson I keep learning even today. I don’t want to learn any more lessons the hard way.
We are constantly being distracted, and pulled away from who we want to be, and where we want to go. The appeal of the car on the side of the road is different for all of us. For some, it may be drugs or alcohol, pornography, movies, books, or music. For others it may be seemingly harmless hobbies, or social media that just take away so much of our time. It may be small things that distract us, or it could be even bigger faith shaking things that start as a curiosity, but soon lead us to speeding in the opposite direction of the home we were headed towards.
Regardless of what it is, the lesson is the same. We just need to finish, keeping our eyes focused ahead towards our heavenly home. And take it one step at a time. We will also need to take very frequent breaks to kneel down.
When we are committed and determined to make it back to our Father in Heaven, we can finally feel the peace that comes with the journey. The freedom we achieve by following the Savior, and becoming more like him, is not so much a physical place, but a feeling, or a state of mind. Its a freedom from guilt, from torment, and shame. Its a freedom from anxiety for what potential penalty awaits us right around the corner. Its the avoidance of waiting for the cops to come haul us away!
We feel at peace when we follow our Savior. His spirit and his love fills our lives when we make the everyday choices to follow him. We will never be truly at peace if we chase after the temporary thrills of the distractions on the side of the road. Ive been there. If we want to live our lives free of fear, doubt, and anxiety we simply need to walk towards him, and not stop until we get there.
This hymn sums it up perfectly….
I will not doubt, I will not fear;
God’s love and strength are always near.
His promised gift helps me to find
An inner strength and peace of mind.
I give the Father willingly
My trust, my prayers, humility.
His Spirit guides; his love assures
That fear departs when faith endures.
-Hymn 158 “When Faith Endures”