You Are Not a Bad Person

The Runaway Tractor- IMG_0580

Several years ago in the middle of haying season my lovely and capable wife offered to take a day off from work and bale the hay I had knocked down in the big field opposite the house on the other side of the big coulee.  I was all for this as I had to work the next day and often about the time I got home a quick evening thunderstorm would put a quick end to my own baling plans.

So I gave her a quick refresher course on running the baler and the old Farmall tractor we would use to pull it.  I went to work the next day expecting to come home and find a field full of beautiful square bales.

I came home to see only the first one or two outside rows baled and the baler sitting idle in the field with no tractor in site.  Bewildered I walked to the door of the house and was met by Donna.  I said, “What happened, where’s the tractor?”  She responded Dad’s at the hospital and the tractor’s in the dump!”  While I was trying to figure out why and how they got the tractor to the dump and what that had to do with Ralph being at the hospital she starting explaining to me that the throttle linkage on the tractor had come loose and not knowing what to do she walked back to the house and called her dad.

Her dad had recently had a couple of TI’s, or mini strokes, and so was not supposed to be driving anymore or running farm equipment.  This of course did not set to well with this nearly 80-year-old rancher who had worked hard all his life and it was a constant fight to keep him out from behind the wheel.  But Donna’s mom offered to bring him out so he could take a look, after all it was his equipment.

So Margie, Donna’s mom drove Ralph out and they went over into the field. He determined he needed to bring the tractor back to the house where it could be worked on.  Since it could not go any faster than an idle no one raised any real objections when he said he would drive it back over to the house.

So they unhooked it from the bailer and away they went, Ralph putting along on the tractor and Margie following in their car.  Donna decided she was going to go check the mail and would meet them back at the house. About half way across the field Ralph stopped the tractor and got off to go and tell Margie something, we never did find out what it was.  As he started walking toward the car Margie yelled at him that the tractor was starting to roll─ it had slowly started rolling backward down the progressively steeper hill toward the big coulee.

Amazingly, Ralph still had enough pep in him to catch the tractor and he managed to get his feet up onto the draw bar on the back end and grab the back of the seat as the tractor started picking up speed as the hill got steeper and steeper. Before he could pull himself up into the seat where he could grab the wheel and step on the brake, the tractor was suddenly plunging backward into a very steep ravine at the bottom edge of the field.

So here’s Ralph hanging on for dear life on the downhill end of a runaway tractor standing just inches off the ground, between two wheels as tall as he is, as it plunges into and through a ravine using him as the spearhead to plow a path through a thicket of very thorny wild plumb trees and just as thorny wild roses, to end up in a bottom full of broken glass and rusted metal and mattress springs.  This coulee—more of a steep ravine off the bigger coulee—had been used years ago by the Helfrick’s─ the original homesteaders─ as a garbage dump.

The tractor crashed through the tangle of brush—which probably kept it from flipping over on top of him—and slammed into the opposite bank at the bottom of the ravine slamming Ralph to the ground before running up over him, the tool bar smashing him into the debris on the ground as it rolled a few feet up the bank before finally coming to rest on top of Ralph.

Finding himself lying flat on his back looking up at the plug in the oil pan on the belly of the tractor and smack between the wheels of the still running tractor, Ralph was able to crawl out on his hands and knees through the broken glass and rusty remnants of tin cans─ bruised, scraped and scratched from head to toe.

Just after Ralph’s spectacular last runaway tractor ride Donna came back from the mail box and saw the car sitting empty in the middle of the field with the door open and no one around.  Donna’s frantic Mom had chased Ralph right into the ravine on foot and that’s where Donna found her. Between them they managed to get Ralph out of that overgrown tangled mess. They loaded him up into the car and hauled him to the emergency room.  He was bruised everywhere and missing a few layers of skin here and there but otherwise he was OK.


3 A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. Is 42:3

We used to have to argue with my Father in Law about driving and running equipment, until the day he ended up in that coulee and almost killed himself. We didn’t have to argue with him any more after that, his wounds did all the talking that was necessary, and we didn’t have to keep jabbing his bruises to make sure he didn’t forget.

When a person has been battered and bruised by bad decisions they don’t need more bruises, they don’t need their bruises pointed out, they need a safe place to heal and they need to be shown how to avoid future bruises without being made to feel like a fool.

Each and every one of us of knows what it feels like to mess up, because we have all messed up. Each one of us knows what it’s like to be judged and condemned and what it feels like to get kicked around.

We are called to love people into wholeness, it’s called grace, we need to do more than receive it, we need to extend it, we all get hurt, we all get derailed at times, that doesn’t nullify God’s love for us.

If you are hurting- Jesus wants to heal you, because he loves you.  Ralph was just trying to save his tractor, a split second decision, a reflex, an attempt to regain control, and suddenly he found himself totally out of control and all he could do is ride it out. I can just imagine the feeling and the fear as he desperately tried to get back into that driver’s seat knowing he was about to go off the edge into the pit, likely to be pinned there under a ton of steel and rubber.

Was it a bad decision? Yes, was he foolish? No, just reacting, trying to do the right thing, probably not the first time but this time it got away from him. Did he deserve what he got? No, and no one thought or insinuated that he did. He knew he messed up but he survived and he learned from it, add so did the rest of us. I know I will never jump onto the rear end of a backwards rolling tractor.

He was black and blue and purple and green for a while but he actually healed up quite nicely.

Maybe you have gotten into a fix that has caused you a lot of grief. Maybe you have jumped onto a runaway tractor thinking to save someone or fix something, turns out you did it the wrong way or it wasn’t appreciated by someone you really care about, now you are ashamed and scorned. Maybe you latched onto something thinking you could control it and suddenly it is controlling you and threatening to destroy you, to pile drive you right into the dump and leave you for broken.

You don’t have to stay there; you don’t deserve to stay there. Listen to this; you are not a bad person, you ae created in the image of God and you have a good heart and that’s what Jesus sees, things have just gotten away from you, you made bad decisions in the heat of the moment, or a well thought out plan didn’t work out and the more you tried to fix it the worse it got and now it seems hopeless. It’s not, Jesus can fix it, Jesus loves you, he wants to pull you out of the dump, to dust you off, to heal you, and set you back in the driver’s seat with a new appreciation for his directions as he guides you to safe places; places where you can help others to avoid or get out of runaway situations.

Your scars are a testimony and a proof of his power and love, share them, show them─ and be healed.


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