Faith & Worship: The great cab ride of salvation

Published 8:00 am Thursday, November 29, 2018

When I was a cab driver in St. Louis, I used to joke that I never knew what the day would hold, whom I would meet and where I would go.

Most of the time, this meant that I got to meet interesting people whom I would never have met otherwise.

Some of the time, though, strange, strange people got into my cab, and I certainly never would have chosen to meet these people outside of my cab. I had my fill of drunk and strung out passengers, but drunk and stoned people are never very interesting. They are just a mess, and I always hoped and prayed that they would not make a mess in my cab.

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The Laclede Cab lot and dispatch tower was on Vandeventer Street under the railroad tracks and Interstate 64 in a seedy part of midtown St. Louis. You certainly wouldn’t want to walk in this neighborhood during the day, let alone during the night.

The lot was populated by a rough and tumble menagerie of cab drivers looking for any angle to get over on their fellow cabbies. You’d have more luck keeping your money in your pocket standing on the north side corner of Grand and Natural Bridge for an hour than you would standing on the cab lot for half an hour.

The lot was a dangerous place to be, but it was also an interesting place to be if you wanted to hear strange stories of exotic cab rides. No story was ever too big, too dangerous, too fanciful or too long to be dismissed out of hand.

Just as fishermen fish to dream about the fish that is so big that nobody will believe their story, cabbies drive in search of the great cab ride that nobody will believe, not even themselves. I would listen to stories of pimps and prostitutes, strip joints on the east side, unctuous grifters and all night rides fueled by desperation and self-loathing, and I would think to myself when will I get one of these great, transcendent stories that nobody will ever believe?

The problem with a great cab ride from the cabbie’s perspective is that it must involve a little danger. You don’t actually want to get shot, stabbed, robbed or hurt in any way, but you must have a little danger in order to prove that you were tough enough to be a cabbie in the most difficult of circumstances.

The ride, though, can’t just be about danger. It must also involve a surreal aspect in which the events of the ride are almost beyond the powers of imagination and description. The ride also must be long enough that the cabbie is exhausted by the end of the ride, and the cabbie’s wallet is so full of cash that all of the other cabbies are flush with jealousy and green with envy.

Now, the point of this little article is not to tell you a story you wouldn’t believe one bit; rather, the point of this article is to tell you that the Gospel is very much like a great cab ride.

I don’t follow Jesus because I have all the answers. I don’t follow Jesus because it always makes complete sense and is neat and tidy.

I don’t follow Jesus because I already know where I am going. I don’t follow Jesus because all of the people along the way will be sweet, normal, middle-class people.

No, I love following Jesus, because there is no better story. There is no story that is more surreal, dangerous, exhausting, bewildering and full of love than the story of Jesus and his followers.

The Gospel is, in fact, the great cab ride of salvation.

Father Robert Ard, The Episcopal Church of the Holy Cross