Get Out of the Truck
(an American parable)
JUST A SMALL TOWN BOY
Once there was a young man named Walking Deer. He grew up on a small reservation, surrounded by simple folks. He would spend long hours walking through the fields talking to Creator, feeling the warm sun on his face and the west wind in his long hair. He loved the sound of rain on the roof of his mom’s trailer and the smell of strong black coffee on his grandfather’s stove.
He worked in a little store by the road. The same people came in day after day, buying the same stuff and having the same small-town conversations. Walking Deer often felt alone and different. He imagined that maybe he was really an alien sometimes. He longed to meet someone interesting and to have adventures.
THE CHANCE OF A LIFETIME
One day a stranger who called himself Thurston came into the store and talked of deep and interesting things to Walking Deer. Thurston was older and had traveled the world. He had visited more countries than Walking Deer had years in his life. He told tales of wonder. Walking Deer felt he could truly talk to Thurston, and that this outsider understood him.
Thurston invited Walking Deer to go on a journey with him. Walking Deer had some apprehension, a feeling he couldn’t pinpoint, down deep inside. He told Thurston that perhaps he shouldn’t go, but Thurston’s countenance was sad. He said, “I feel I’m losing the best friendship of my life and I barely know you, but if you lack the courage to come with me, I have plenty of other people who want to ride with me. You will never have this opportunity again. Do you really want to miss out on the world that I can show you?”
So, Walking Deer, not wanting to be thought of as a coward and not wanting to miss out on an opportunity that would never come again, packed his duffle bag, kissed his mother and baby sister, hugged his grandfather, then climbed into the truck with Thurston.
The two friends spent many hours in the vehicle together. They talked, laughed, visited exotic places and met interesting people. In the beginning, Walking Deer was happy to let Thurston lead. After all, he knew nothing of this world that Thurston was used to and Thurston was smart. He was also charming and cunning. Almost anything Thurston wanted, he found a way to obtain. Walking Deer observed him and learned from him.
Everywhere they went people either wanted to impress Thurston because of his intelligence, accomplishments, influence and wealth or they were jealous of him and attempting to bring him down a notch or two.
Sometimes, Thurston enjoyed activities that had always been taboo in Walking Deer’s life. He didn’t have the same moral issues that the folks in Walking Deer’s life had back home. So, Walking Deer found himself going into establishments and doing things he never would have dreamed of doing on his own. Yes, he was having a grand adventure and experiencing new things every day.
He rode with Thurston for weeks, then months. The months turned to years, and they made plans for more great adventures together. However, Walking Deer felt something amiss inside. His spirt was unsettled and he did not have peace in his heart. He felt out of sync with himself and with his Creator. He couldn’t separate what he liked and wanted from what Thurston liked and wanted. He was often confused.
Whenever a choice to go one way or another came up, Thurston would tell him to choose but when Walking Deer chose, Thurston would point out why that wasn’t really what Walking Deer wanted and the young man ended up doubting his own ability to make a decision or think his own thoughts. He doubted his own view of reality.
No matter what amazing surroundings he found himself in or what finery he experienced, Walking Deer felt unsettled inside because he was riding in someone else’s truck to someone else’s destination. Whenever he fell asleep, he dreamed of a grandfather deer telling him, “You have lost your way. You are walking another man’s path. This is not the way for you.” He also dreamed of getting out of the truck and walking his own journey. It would be harder and more uncomfortable than riding in the truck, but it would be his own legs taking him there. That felt important to him now, even though it hadn’t at the beginning.
He became clear in his heart that Creator was calling to him, directing him to get out of the truck. Even though he had enjoyed his relationship with Thurston and his truck all of those years, he knew it was time to part ways. So, one day he said, “I want to go my own way, to walk my own path.”
“What about all of our plans?” Thurston said.
“I have changed,” said Walking Deer. “I believe Creator is leading me in a different way.”
“No, no, I prayed, and Creator is telling me that we belong in the same vehicle. We are meant to ride this road together,” said Thurston.
He glared at Walking Deer, “What about all of the things we’ve done together, all of the good times? Were they all lies? No. I believe I know how you feel better than you know how you feel, and you want to leave now but later you’ll regret it. You’re just scared and don’t believe you deserve good things. I have rescued you from your truncated life and I am invested in you!”
Walking Deer felt angry and confused. How could Creator be telling them both something entirely different?
“I have a lot of things I want to do along this road,” said Thurston. “And I want to do them with you. I don’t believe you know what you want, and, in the future, you will be sorry you got out of my truck. You are not wise enough to travel your own path. Stay with me. I know what is best for you.”
“But I need to discover who I am,” said Walking Deer. “I want to think my own thoughts and feel my own feelings.”
“I’m the safest way for you to do that,” said Thurston. “I want you to feel safe with me, to trust me and to discover who you are with me guiding you. Here,” he reached into the glove box and pulled out a pamphlet. “Read this. It will tell you what is wrong with you and then you will see what I see, and we can work through this.”
“But I only want to get out of the truck,” said Walking Deer. “We have been together all this time and now it is time for me to find my own way.”
Thurston said, “You are hurt and in despair. You need me to guide you, my young friend.”
Walking Deer read the pamphlet and felt bad about himself, because, yes, he was messed up inside. He wasn’t what the pamphlet said he should be, so he stayed in the truck for a few more days, and made plans with Thurstan, but an emptiness was growing inside him. And worse, he was forgetting his own name and where he came from. He was losing himself and becoming more and more a part of Thurston’s plans every day.
CLARITY and FREEDOM
One day, as the truck was speeding down the road, Walking Deer saw a sign. It was a bright neon sign that read: WALK THIS WAY!
That was a moment of great clarity for Walking Deer. When Thurston slowed down because of a winding road, Walking Deer opened his door and jumped out of the moving vehicle. He rolled down an embankment and landed in a wet ditch line, but he didn’t stop. He got up, his jeans ripped, his hands bloody, his body hurting, and he ran with a limp across the field and into the woods.
Thurston pulled the truck over and shouted for Walking Deer to return but the young man was free. He ran with tears streaming down his face. He was wounded from the ordeal, and he cared for Thurston and his plans, but he had to get away. The more he ran, the more he realized that his existence and self-identity depending on being free from Thurston’s influence.
He remembered how it felt to be alone in the fields with Creator. He remembered the sounds of his baby sister’s laughter and the smell of his grandfather’s coffee. He remembered the wide-open skies.
Thurston shouted, “You’ll come back to the road. You’ll be hitching a ride with someone else soon. I know you better than you know yourself. You’ll never be satisfied trying to walk your own path. Come back, have courage. Do what I think is best for you. Do you hear me? How dare you discard me? Do you not realize that I’m the best person in the world for you? Don’t you see that I’m the best friend you’re ever going to have? You NEED me, Walking Deer!”
Walking Deer kept going. He had decided that he would rather die than go back and ride in someone else’s truck to someone else’s destination. When he emerged on the other side of the woods, overlooking a valley, he felt freer than he had ever been.
He had no clue where he was only that he was following the convictions of his own heart, and this was Creator’s plan for him. He lifted his eyes to the sky and wept with joy.
BRINGING IT ON HOME
The moral to this story is that there may be times in our lives when others, although with good intentions, want us to do what THEY believe we should do rather than what WE believe we should do. Often, these are good things, but good things are not always God things, meaning that just because a thing is good, that doesn’t mean it’s God’s perfect will for your life. We must obey the inner guidance of God’s spirit above all else and everyone else.
A COUPLE PERSONAL EXAMPLES
I awoke yesterday morning with a text message from a relative wanting me to do something. When I said that I couldn’t do it because I had a publishing deadline to meet, I was bombarded with messages meant to guilt trip me into doing it anyway! I lay in bed and laughed as a scripture verse came into my mind. “Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?”
I recall a time a few years ago when I had a friend who bought me gifts and spent money on me, who called me at work and sent me notes. She made plans for us to do lots of things together. Then one day she said she wanted me to open a daycare with her. She told me that God had shown her that I was supposed to do this. For a while, I made plans with her and talked about opening a daycare, but like Walking Deer, something gnawed at me inside.
She was much more vocal and emotionally expressive than I was. I had stuff churning beneath and inside that I hadn’t identified yet and she already had me going out west with her on adventures then returning here to open a daycare. Suddenly, I bolted because one night while I was praying I became aware that my inner being (what Paul called the Hidden Man of the Heart) said, “No.”
She didn’t have the credentials to do it unless she came under someone with a degree in early childhood, which I had. She also didn’t have the good credit to get a loan to open the facility and guess what? I did. So, God told her to tell me what to do so that MY life would be in accordance with HIS plan. However, I no longer felt in alignment with these plans and knew that it wasn’t God’s will for my life.
She told me that I was a coward, that I lacked courage because I wouldn’t step out in faith with her. She said I missing God and that I would never be happy and that he would never use me again. Wow! Now, that’s an attempt at manipulation and control if I ever heard one. I was hurt.
She was mad at me because I wanted to pursue my own path in life instead of the one she had laid out for me. I wrestled with guilt over letting her down, then it was like I had a moment of clarity and I couldn’t get away from her fast enough. She took it upon herself to believe that her will was God’s will. So often people assume that because they want a thing for your life that God must want that for you, too.
IT EVEN HAPPENED TO JESUS
I read where Jesus was telling his students that he was going to take a path in life that would ultimately lead to him being tortured and killed. Peter was upset by this. The thought of Jesus choosing a path like that bothered him.
He was going to miss Jesus and besides, Peter, along with the other disciples had big dreams and they had believed Jesus shared their future dreams. Apparently, he didn’t.
He was heading down another path and it was a path that Peter didn’t agree with. So, the Bible says that Peter pulled Jesus aside and rebuked or contradicted him. Peter told him that this wasn’t the way he should go. Then Jesus spoke those famous lines, “Get thee behind me, Satan.” (see Matthew 16)
Now, I don’t believe that Jesus was calling Peter the devil. However, he was saying that Peter’s wishes were based on Peter’s will and Jesus wanted to do God’s will.
God’s will for our lives doesn’t always make sense to those who have our best interests at heart. Also, a lot of times, “our best interest at heart,” actually also happens to be the thing that person wants us to do because it holds some benefit for them as well.
Just like Walking Deer, sometimes we have to jump out of the truck if that’s what it takes.