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I asked Jesus to be my savior back in 1978 on my way to prison for the first time. In 1981 I tried meth and then spent the next 23 years in and out of prison and jail running from the Lord and myself. I’ve been arrested for everything from cattle rustling to first degree murder. I’ve been shot, cut and clubbed and had done much worse to others. All this time I heard God calling to me but I kept running away truly thinking that God could never forgive or want anything like me. I had done far too much. I had given up on me but what I didn’t know was that Jesus loved me in spite of me. Jesus was about to show me that He will finish what He starts. This is what it took to get my attention. Jesus brought me to my knees and carried me through being broken down to nothing—to what would become my turning point.
It had been a rough night. My wife, at that time, who had cheated on me twice before, had admitted to me she was doing it again. My thinking before had been that if I could forgive her and show her what real love was, she would stop doing this. That didn’t work out so good. This morning she said that by the time I got home from work, she would be long gone. Her drug dealer friend from Oregon was on his way down to get her. We had been doing meth and drinking for years and had just decided it was time to get cleaned up because we now owned a little trucking company and wanted to save our marriage. Looking back I see that it was a decision I had made. The arguing was going nowhere and if I stayed I would kill this man, so I went out and fired up the truck, took one last look at home as I knew it, and went to work. They were not worth going back to prison.
So you’re maybe thinking—how awful this is? Put on your seat belt; we’re just getting started.
I spent the day at work glad to be a truck driver because like an old bear I just wanted to be alone. I don’t think I would have made very good company anyway. The day just dragged on and on and I tried to call her two or three times hoping that maybe she had gotten some sleep and we could still work it all out somehow. Finally I had dropped my last load and could go home. I pointed the truck north. I got a call from a friend letting me know she was gone so now there was no reason to hurry to get anywhere. I took my usual exit and made the first of the two last turns that would get me home on the truck routes. I came up to a slight right curve in the road and saw a girl getting out of a car on my left up ahead and she looked at me and waited for me to pass by so she could cross. Just as the first half of my 18-wheeler got past her I saw her dart out into the road way too early. In that split second I thought, she’ll stop because she has to see my trailer. I watched in disbelief. She didn’t stop. She ran under my trailer just in front of the rear axle on the driver’s side. I watched as the rear fender hit her slamming her to the ground on her back then the rear tires running her over. I was yelling, “Oh God, no! No! No! This can’t be!” I stopped fast as I was only doing 25, set the brakes, got out and ran back to fix it. Yes, I thought I was going way too slow for there to be any real damage. I would fix it and be on my way. I got to her and being an ex-fireman the old training kicked in. People were just standing around doing nothing and I noticed a man next to the side of the road she had been going toward. He was frozen in place. It was her husband. He saw it happen. I went to work. Blood was gushing from her mouth so I knew that in the impact she had bitten her tongue and I needed help to turn her or she would drown. No one would help. I yelled at them but they just stood there. I wrapped my right arm around her shoulder and was gently working my left hand under her head and neck so I could turn her and it was at that moment I realized she was dead. The back of her head was caved in from the impact with the pavement. I checked once more for any vital signs. She was gone.
Time stopped. I could hear sirens coming from everywhere. I knew there was nothing anyone could do. She was dead and I did it. In my mind I had killed an innocent person. There was no way to justify or rationalize it. Innocent and dead. I got up and moved away looking into the faces of everyone. Apologizing to everyone. This was her home; they all knew her. I went back to my truck and pounded on the side of it and waited for the police. That’s when it started to sink in. This will be a third strike. I am going to prison forever. I got my phone and called my broker. I told him where I was, asked him to come get my truck because I had just killed someone and was going to prison. With that done I sat on the fuel tank and just looked at her lying in the road and cried.
Someone was talking. I heard it again. “Are you the driver?” I looked up. Highway patrol. So this was it. “License and registration please.” A fireman walked up. They looked at each other and knowingly nodded signifying to one another that she was dead. They led me to the front of my truck so I could not see her anymore. They then asked me if I was alright. I couldn’t talk and they asked again. I just looked into the far-off distance, their words not really registering.
I heard someone say, “Do you want a chaplain?” I heard me say yes. The fireman stayed with me until the chaplain arrived. He took me in back of some trees where I could not watch the investigation and then a trauma prevention person came up to us. It turns out they were both Christians. Real Bible-believing Word of God Christians. They asked if they could pray with and for me and I said, “You need to go pray with that girl’s husband. He saw her die and needs you more than I do.” They both looked at me and said, “He sent us to you.” I broke down into a pile of mush. I had just killed this man’s wife. And he sent them to pray for me? I heard one of them saying, “God will not give you more than you can handle.” I remembered that verse from long ago. They kept quoting things that I knew were from the Bible I had once cherished.
The highway patrolman came over and asked me to do a breathalyzer test. I did and it was clean and then he said the investigation was over. He told me after taking measurements and collecting all the witness statements, most importantly the husband’s, it all proved that I was not at fault. The two men who had been praying for me said, “That’s what we have been trying to tell you. Her husband told us that’s what he saw, then sent us to take care of you.” I was mush again.
By now my broker had gotten there with a driver that took my truck to his yard for the night and cleaned it off so I would not have to see it. My broker then gave me a ride home. Remember the part about my wife leaving? I walked in the front door and the only things that kept it from being empty was the overturned furniture, the scattered trash and my dog. That was the most alone I had ever been. This would be the longest night of my life. I just kept seeing her lying in the middle of the road and I could still feel the back of her head in my hand. An old friend came to sit with me but I convinced him I was fine and sent him away. The old bear wanted to be alone. The next two weeks were hell. I had to go back to work the next day or lose my business and I just kept seeing her. I could not sleep so I bought a bottle of Jack and some sleeping pills. For those two weeks it was JD and pills and maybe I could sleep each night until about two. I could not convince myself it wasn’t my fault. It was in those early hours of sleeplessness, just my dog and me, feeling the most alone I had ever felt, that I prayed—for the first time since this whole nightmare began.
I didn’t feel like it. I didn’t want to. Something in me just did it. I heard me say, with tears streaming down my face, “Jesus, fix me.” That was it. That was all I said. Then a memory came to me. It was when my son died years ago. I remembered the pastor that took care of me and the service. Glenn was his name. Go see Glenn. What was the name of that church? The Salt Mine. Go to the Salt Mine. So that next Sunday I went. I sat toward the back and did just fine until the singing started. I did my best to hide it with all these strangers but I was a big bucket of mush. I calmed down some during the message part but then they started that singing again. They made an invitation to come up front for prayer and for the life of me I don’t know how but there I was standing up front crying like an idiot. Glenn asked me what I needed prayer for and it all just flooded out of me like a dam had broken and a giant torrent had been released. People gathered around me. They laid their hands on me and prayed. I don’t know what was said but I felt it. I felt it go as if a great weight was lifted from me. I knew it was gone and I was free at that moment. You guessed it—I cried some more. I re-dedicated my life to Jesus right then and there.
Nothing has been the same since that day. I was delivered right there from the nightmares, the JD, the pills, the meth and the blame. Jesus gave me a new heart and a new life to go with it. I stayed on at the Salt Mine and now have become a recovery counselor. I have found that what I have been through is now a blessing to others in their struggle to be free. Blessings? God gave me a clean and sober Christian wife, a home, a job and a loving church family. And I still have that dog.
God was calling me back and I ran. What’s it going to take for you?
May God Bless You,
George B. Layton