Grace and Peace be with you Snyder, Wherever You Are
"I saw a UFO once..."
I was thinking about the extent of the Lord's grace and His peace when I thought of Snyder.
I met the man while on my way to Laughlin, NV. I was driving a 24' truck filled with props for Anaheim Ballet's annual performance of the Nutcracker. The truck broke down just outside Barstow.
It took Budget Truck Rentals nearly 7 hours to find a tow truck to haul me into town, only to discover that all the places that could have made the needed repairs were - by that time - closed. It took them another 4 hours to find another operator to haul me and my 24' of ballet props the rest of the way to Laughlin.
It was eleven in the evening when the heavy-duty tow truck arrived. Snyder slid down from the cab. He introduced himself with a short nod. "Snyder."
I shook his tanned hand: firm, bony, and rough from a lifetime of manual labor. His eyes, still bright, held the frame of hard times and hard thoughts. Wisps of shoulder length blond hair floated in the breeze around his stained 'flame' trucker's hat. The crop of stubble on his chin completed what I imagined was a classic look of a "long haul tow truck operator."
Oh boy. Right again.
I tried to return his firm grip, winced and nodded back. "Ray."
"I guess we're going to Laughlin," says Snyder, giving my crippled truck a once over. "It's gettin late. Best get going."
My first impression was, "Okay, this guy looks weird, but he acts like a pro."
The way he hooked his truck up to mine, I could tell he'd been at it for a long time. His way of life. Probably the only life he knew. For that moment, I envied him. The simplicity. The peaceful nature of it; the certainty of existence. But would I be happy?
We got underway. Outside was as black as pitch. Even the moon was dark. Ghoulish green glow from the dashboard lights illuminated our faces as the engine growled and the tires whined. It was just Snyder and me for the next five hours.
It wasn't long before fatigue seeped in and I started feeling drowsy. It had been a long day. But I didn't want just to fall off to sleep and leave this guy to drive alone. I searched for some topic that we could share, some subject that could strike up a conversation. Snyder beat me to the bell.
"I saw a UFO once," he said suddenly.
I imagined all kinds of topics, but not in a million years did I expect this. I held back my shock. "Wow!" I nodded. "Really? Where?" Wide awake now, instinct edged me toward the door, but where the hell was I going to go?
"Out there, in the desert," he added. "I was alone."
I'll bet you were.
"Man, that must have been something," I calmly looked around for anything I might use to protect myself.
"They were great big bright lights... like balloons," he continued.
From there, I managed to get him to wind down to earthly matters; his ex-wife (divorced after an episode of 'doh-mistic violence'), his kids (who hated him 'on account of the booze'), his struggle to keep a job (driving trucks).
Nearing Laughlin, finally Snyder laid his soul to bear: "The Lord doesn't want to have anything to do with me anymore; Jesus don't care about guys like me."
What did you just say?
It wasn't in jest; he was as serious as sin; serious as any man could be about a topic like this. I tried to cajole him out of this idea - but he didn't take. He saw no need for grace; he was beyond hope. He had no feel for peace; he was beyond salvation. Suddenly, I could see it; he was suffering. At that point, all I could do was tell him that Jesus DID care and that all he needed to do was open his heart again to feel love.
Snyder snorted. "Naw. I'm too far gone for that."
Okay, Lord. Now I understand.
I didn't feel sorry him. But I felt the call was strong. I had to dive into the conversation as best I could. I don't remember my precise words, but it went something like this:
"Jesus will never give up on you, brother. You may live your entire life and never feel an ounce of love again. But all the while, the Lord will be waiting for you to come home. He knows your pain. And he knows what will give you ease. I'll bet that if you remember what peace was like; if all you have to offer is the memory of one love, a long time ago, the Lord our God will see it and open his arms. At that last moment of life, your last breath, he will be there. You'll hear his voice and see his face. Then you'll be saved."
I stopped talking; internal frustration and my own memories were welling up in my eyes. Snyder was quiet too. We rode those washboard hills just before you reach the outskirts of Laughlin in total silence.
At about 3am we finally pulled into the parking lot at the Riverside Casino. He stopped the rig and shut it down, then turned to me.
"I hope you're right," he said.
You and me both, brother.
He unhooked the trucks, and we said our goodbyes in the still very dark predawn freezing cold air. I can't be sure, but when we shook hands for the last time, I thought I saw tears in his eyes, which of course made me think of my own transformation into the Faith.
The experience taught me that some people never understand; some people simply do not want to believe, and some people ache for someone to tell them that it'll all be okay. I also realized that for some folks, the ache is the only reality they know. Their sense of existence, their world reality, is through constant personal anguish - about things that happened before, dreams that never came true, and despair that nothing will ever change. Many of them, and I think Snyder is among them, have just enough insight to realize how badly they want their faith back.
I pray for all Snyders wherever they may be. I pray deeply that perhaps one day they find grace and that peace may recover their souls.