“AT THE END OF THE ROAD”
By the time Johnny Benchfield turned off of Highway 14 coming out of Tully, Mississippi, he was ready for a break. “Any kind of a break would do”, he thought, as he shoved his little blue ’66 Mustang into second gear and slowed to a stop in front of the only gas station he had seen in miles.
Johnny had been on the move now for exactly a month. Four weeks ago today, Jonathan Chester Benchfield had been standing where he had stood for the past eleven years–in the production line at Andersen’s Metal Fabrication. He was an expert at making little pieces of metal out of big pieces of metal. It was robot-like work and Johnny hated every minute of it.
No one really knew why Johnny walked out of Andersen’s four weeks ago. Those that had worked with him so long, only knew that four Fridays ago Johnny suddenly took his gloves off, threw them on the bench, walked to the office and demanded his final check. The last that they had seen of Johnny Benchfield was when he got into his little ’66 Mustang and drove out of the parking lot.
Little did they know the turmoil that Johnny had been going through most of last year. His life seemed to be sinking all around him. He was working on a dead end job. The dreams that he had had as a teenager were long gone. Relationships never seemed to work out. His last girl friend was a disaster.
“Why is it,” he had complained to his friend, “that every girl I think would be cool to date wants to drag me off to church?
“I’m telling you, and I’ll tell anyone that wants to listen, I’ve had it with religion being crammed down my throat. When I was fifteen, I walked out of the doors of the church and I swore I would never go into another one the rest of my life; and I intend to keep that promise.”
It had been almost a year since that took place; perhaps the most miserable year in Johnny Benchfield’s life. Nothing that he did seemed to please him. The harder he tried to entertain himself, the worse he felt. He had even dated a few girls he had known in high school. Most of them had been married and divorced already; some with children.
However, the thing that had really been the torment to Jonathan was not the botched relations, or the dead end job. It was the recurring dreams that he had been having–dreams of his childhood, dreams of his family, and dreams of his church.
At the end of the dreams it was always the same. He comes to a long lonely road covered by the overhanging boughs of huge trees on each side. He comes to a small meadow, and in the center of the meadow is a white church. From the little church comes the sound of the music of his childhood. In the dream he is always drawn toward the music, but wakes up before he gets there.
Well, that was then—before he left home, before he walked out on his job and hit the road. Yes sir, no more dreams for Benchfield. No more memories of the past when God and church dominated his life.
You bet! Benchfield beat it. He was finally free from those things that had been such a torment to him. He was his own man again. Now he could enjoy life.
Johnny pulled his mustang up to one of only two gas pumps in front of “Elmo’s Gas & Go”. A small bell rang inside; and before long, a young man about his age came out of a garage wiping his hands on a greasy rag.
“Fill it up with Premium,” he said to the attendant as he came toward the pump.
The young man eyed Johnny as he began the monotonous job of putting gas in the car.
“Nice Mustang,” the young man said. “Had it long?”
“Since High School,” Johnny said with pride. Anyone that was interested in his “’66” was already his friend. His Mustang was the only thing in the past ten years that had never let him down, or walked out on him.
“Long ways from home, aren’t you? California! Always wanted to go there, but never did seem to find the time to do it.”
Johnny liked the guy instantly. He was easy going, with that distinctive Mississippi drawl that was pleasant to the ear. Before he knew it, forty-five minutes had passed, and they had talked about everything imaginable.
The attendant’s name was Clyde; and he and his father owned the service station and attached mechanic’s garage. He had a wife and two small children, a boy and a girl. He loved old cars, especially the “’60’s”, loved to play baseball, and played base guitar in the church music band.
Johnny was intrigued by the young Mississippian. He had everything that Johnny always wanted–a life with purpose and fulfillment. Yes sir, Benchfield found somebody that knew what life was all about.
By lunch time, Clyde had convinced Johnny to stay over a few days, and attend his baseball game for the church league out on Old Washburn Road.
“Look,” Clyde finally said after hamburgers. “I’ve got to get back and finish Miss Maggie’s Chevy before quitting time. You can’t miss the ball field. Take a left at Jenner’s Flour Mill, and keep on going. It’s at the end of the road.”
After a leisurely afternoon in the small town of Tully, Johnny headed out to find Jenner’s Mill. Turning left on Old Washburn Road, he drove along with the Mississippi afternoon breeze blowing through his windows.
“This is a place he could love,” he said to himself as he made his way along the countryside. Suddenly he realized something was strangely familiar with where he was, like he had been there before. Then, without warning, he turned the next bend and there it was–his dream with the little white church in the meadow, and beside it a baseball field crowded with happy fans.
It was then he knew what the struggle of this past year was all about. It wasn’t his job, nor was it his relationships. It was his God that he missed.
“Welcome home,” a voice deep within said. “Welcome home, son. I’ve been missing you, too.”
The goodness of the Lord brings us to repentance (Ro. 2:4)
The steps of a good man are ordered of the Lord. (Ps. 37:23)
It’s never too late to come home!
George Watkins, Apostle
(In the continuing tradition that Jesus began, these are stories and parables that bring to life God’s truth and principles for daily living. Some are from life experiences that God has taught me along the journey that I have had with Him.)