I was about seventeen when my dad gave us kids a 1964 VW beetle. It was the ugliest car on earth at that time, and only became “cute” to later generations – which I admit I’m still not a part of. He gave the three older kids the VW as our car. We paid for gas and oil, and he maintained it. It was a sweet deal.
One of the huge drawbacks of the early VW beetles was that they had virtually no heaters or defrosters. It was very difficult to get one warm inside, and almost impossible to defrost the windows. I’m told Germans still don’t heat their homes, so maybe it seemed fine to them. To me it was always a frozen, miserable trip. I appreciated having transportation, but it really seemed like a bug, a metal insect to me. But, the little thing started every single time, had great traction in the snow, and almost never left you stranded. Did I mention that it had very poor headlights? I mean, light a candle and hold it out the window if you really want to see where you’re going.
It was late one snowy afternoon with heavy fog when I was headed home from High School. The windows were frosted over. It was dark, and I could just barely identify the road enough to drive on it. I used to like to follow other vehicles – because I could see better from the reflected light of their headlights, than from my own.
Between the school and our home was a long hill. There were train tracks at two places on the hill. The upper one was a single track. The rails were rusty, and I had never seen a train there. The lower track was a double set, and there were daily trains there. The crossing was marked by a big white X. There were no lights, or arms or bells. Just the white X.
I was coming down that hill, shivering and anxious to get home. I could see the crossing sign up ahead and decided it was safe to cross.
I distinctly heard the Spirit whisper, “Stop.”
I came to a stop and looked closely. There was no train, and I was concerned that a car would rear end me stopped in the road. I put it back in gear and started to move over the tracks.
The Spirit again said “Stop!” a little louder. I stopped again, and again decided it was safe to proceed.
I had gone a couple feet when the Spirit plainly said “STOP, roll down the window!” So, I stopped again because the prompting was almost audible this time. I rolled down the window and through the muffling effect of softly falling snow heard the clickity-clack-clickty-clack of a train. I switched the lights on bright, which didn’t make much difference, and was utterly terrified to see train wheels. Not a train – train wheels, going past my bumper no more than a few feet away. I was literally inches from driving under a train.
Time and again, I suspect for millennia before I was born, and through my few years of mortality, this one lesson has been taught to me over and over.
My sheep hear my voice.