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God can use anyone to get his message across. Anyone can be made a vessel of his Spirit. As born-again believers we know that, because most of us came to God from a place of profound sin. Even so, God healed us and made us one of his. If he can use us, he can use anyone.
Years ago, when I was a teenager, I used to hitchhike to get around. Every summer, I would hitchhike out to Vancouver from Halifax. Sometimes I’d hitchhike back to Halifax, and sometimes I’d fly.
On one of the years that I decided to hitchhike back, I got stuck at an all-night truck stop somewhere in rural New Brunswick when the trucker who’d picked me up at the Quebec border said he needed to catch a few hours’ sleep before continuing on. It was around 3 in the morning. He told me I could either lay down in the extra bunk, or he’d give me money to go into the restaurant and get something to eat to pass the time. I didn’t think it was a good idea to bunk down in the truck, however innocent the offer might have been, so I went into the restaurant instead. I was there for about a half-hour before I decided to keep hitchhiking.
It was around 3:30 a.m. and nearly pitch black when I made my way back to the highway. The minute I stepped onto the pavement and realized how dark it was, I thought this isn’t very smart and maybe I should go back to the restaurant. But just as I turned to go back, I saw headlights approaching, and almost as a reflex, I stuck out my thumb. Before I knew it, a vehicle had pulled up beside me, the passenger door opened, and a male voice called out “Hop in”.
So I hopped in.
The driver was a young man, around 30 (though he seemed old to me at the time). He was friendly, funny and talkative, and we chit-chatted for a couple of hours as we bounced along in his old pick-up truck. I don’t remember what we talked about, though it was probably my hitchhiking adventures and the places I’d been. We didn’t exchange names or ages, we just chatted, which was pretty much par for the course. My job, as the hitchhiker, was to help the driver stay alert and pass the time pleasantly, while the driver’s job was to get me from point A to point B.
Just after sunrise, as the sky was starting to get light, the guy said he needed to pick up some wood at a woodlot, and would I mind if we made a short detour. I told him no, that was fine, I didn’t have to be anywhere at any given time, so he could pick up the wood, if that’s what he needed to do.
We pulled off the highway and onto a dirt road and drove for about five minutes. There was nothing around us but deep woods, and the road got rougher and ruttier until we could barely roll. That’s when he braked, turned off the engine, turned to me, and said something that I won’t repeat here, but I think you know what it was.
I had been hitchhiking at that point for about three years. I’d never had any problems and always got where I wanted to go, safe and sound. But this time was different. I knew from the look in the guy’s eyes and the tone in his voice and from the impossibly remote setting that I’d permitted myself to be driven into that this was not going to end well for me. I was more terrified than I’d ever been in my life. I was so terrified, I couldn’t move. I was frozen stiff.
He had unzipped his pants and started pawing me, trying to take my clothes off, when suddenly my mouth opened and words came out. I can’t describe it any other way than my mouth opened and words came out. They weren’t my words and I wasn’t saying them, but they were coming out of my mouth.
Here are the words: “Would Jesus want you to do this? What would Jesus say if he saw you doing this? Would Jesus want you to be doing this? What would Jesus say?”
The words kept repeating over and over, over and over, over and over, while I sat stiff as a corpse. After about a minute the guy’s grip on me weakened, and he slumped back in the driver’s seat and started to cry. Then he leaned onto the steering wheel and heaved and sobbed in a way I’d never seen anyone cry before, let alone a man.
Meanwhile, the words had stopped coming out of my mouth, but I was still frozen stiff. As his sobs quieted and he wiped his face, he started telling me that he’d picked up a hitchhiker the day before who’d said that she needed money to get the ferry from St. John to Nova Scotia, and that she’d do anything if he’d give her the money. He said he thought I was like her, and that’s why he’d done what he’d done to me.
Then he turned the engine on, and backed out of the rutty dirt road and onto the highway. We drove for a few minutes in silence. I hadn’t said another word after the Jesus words. We pulled up to a gas station and he said to me: “There’s a restaurant in there. You can get some breakfast.” And he gave me $5 (which was like $20 in those days). I opened the truck door to get out, and just before I closed it behind me, he said: “Be careful who you get in with.” And then he drove off.
It was July 1st (a holiday in Canada), and there were a lot of cars on the road, even early in the morning. I had no trouble getting rides for the rest of the trip back to Halifax. I got there early in the afternoon, unannounced, and went straight to bed. I was still living with my parents at the time. My mother was surprised to see me, as usually I was away for the summer, but she left me in peace when she saw how tired I was and how I didn’t seem to want to talk.
I never told anyone about this experience until I was in my 40s. I knew if I said anything to anyone at the time, they would have just blamed me for hitchhiking, and they would have been right. But I also didn’t say anything because I had no idea what had happened. I had no idea why those words came out of my mouth and why they made the guy stop trying to rape me and start crying. I had no idea what had happened to me, so I kept it to myself for a long time. The first person I told was an old boyfriend, when I was in my mid-40s.
You’re now the second person I’ve told.
When I was born-again, God took me on a tour of my life and showed me times when he had directly intervened to save me. This attempted rape was one of those times. As a born-again believer, I now understand what happened that day in the pick-up truck in the back logging road, with the guy who’d changed from a would-be rapist into a blubbering heap in a matter of seconds. I now understand that the words that came out of my mouth that day were not my words, they were God’s, and that God spoke through me, even me, an atheist who didn’t believe he existed. God knew that those words were the only things that could stop the guy, and so the name of his son Jesus was spoken over and over until the demons that drove him to drive me into the back woods were driven out of him and back to whatever hellhole they came from.
I have no idea what happened to the guy after he dropped me off at the gas station and drove away. I didn’t think about him again for years, until after I was reborn. I hope that his contrition turned into repentance and that his life was changed for the better. I think it was. Like I said, I’d never seen anyone cry like that before. He sobbed like someone who hadn’t cried for a long time, if ever. A lot came out of him that day.
God can use anyone to get his message across, even a vain, foolish, teen-age hitchhiker who doesn’t believe he exists.