He rolled up in an old corroded sports car – a brown rust bucket of a classic. I’m no car man so I’d be guessing at the make and model. Let’s just say it was an oxymoron. Clearly a star in its day, but now gone to seed. Drips of brown moisture dropped from the exhaust as it pulled up ahead of me.
‘Give you a lift?’ he called.
He had a tidy goatee, surfer blond hair and ear studs. I figured it was worth the chance. I’m normally too cautious to go hitching in life, but this wasn’t life.
‘I’m trying to write this poem,’ he said as we pulled away and the wind snagged at his hair. The car picked up speed, but then coughed and lost it again. The whole journey turned out to be like this. Bursts of life ambushed by jolting, throaty groans.
‘I’m no poet,’ I said.
‘Everyone’s a poet,’ he said. ‘They just don’t know it.’ He changed gear, the car growled and lurched, so he changed back again. ‘So,’ he went on, ‘This poem of mine. It’s about battling through the hard days of life. The empty years, the lonely nights, that sort of thing. You want to hear what I got so far? I need a sounding board.’
‘Do not be afraid…’
He laughed. ‘No pal, this is the poem.’
He hit the accelerator and we speeded up, then the exhaust spat watery smoke and we slowed down again.
‘Do not be afraid,’ he said, ‘for I‘ve ransomed you.
I have called you by name; you’re mine.
When you go through deep waters I will be with you.
When you battle through great trouble, I’ll be there.
When you travel through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up.’
Silence, apart from the throaty roar of the engine. The wind blew dust on our faces then gusted it off again.
‘What d’you think, pal?’ he said eventually.
‘It’s good. What’s it mean?’
‘It’s about the divine presence. You see I guess that many people expect that when life is good, God is there. I want to tell them, that God is there when life is hard. When it’s bitter and twisted. When it threatens to crush and destroy. He’s no less present when you and I are cornered and struggling.’
Taken from the forthcoming biblical novel Breaking into The Good Book by Dave Hopwood