Tattoos, The Trucker Life and a Better Jesus
Dave was gruff but authentic and full of life. I learned a lot from him. He introduced me to the long-haul trucker life, which included CB slang, the rules of the road, the best truck stops for a quick shower, the life and music of Johnny Cash, and the wonder of steak and eggs for breakfast.
Most of our tours were up and down the East Coast, though some tickled the Midwest.
All our West Coast tours involved a smaller crew and an 8-passenger King Air. These were exciting flights for an 18-year-old. Phil Driscoll would pilot the take-off and then trade spots with me so he could catch up on sleep. I’d sit with his co-pilot, Dennis, and ask a million questions until I was convinced I could fly it, if needed.
“Hey Scott, trade seats with me,” Phil would say. He called me Scott for the first three months I roadied for him and his Mighty Horn Ministries.
At the time, Phil was a lot of things—a trumpet player, singer, pilot, businessman, and worshiper leader; but above all, he was a superstar who had run with Dylan, Blood Sweat and Tears, and Joe Cocker before he gave Jesus his heart. Back then, after you gave your heart to Jesus, you had to stop playing clubs and start playing churches.
“His name is Jason,” our soundman, Robert, corrected more than a few times.
“Right, sorry, Jason,” Phil would say.
Eventually, I just responded to Scott. It was easier that way.
I loved flying in the King Air, but most of my time was spent with Dave in the Mack Truck. We traveled the 500+ member church circuit, mostly. We’d leave Cleveland, Tennessee, days early, arrive at the venue the day of the show, meet the crew of earnest volunteers, and set up sound and lights. Later, Phil would fly in and play the gig.
I ran the light show most nights. It was cool—and so were the concerts, in the most contemporary Christian sense of the word.
If I were the name-dropping type, I’d tell ya about how I had dinner with Carmen and shared backstage with Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant, Out of the Grey, Kim Hill, Mylon LeFevre, and a couple of Gaithers. I’d probably mention my brush with Pat Robertson and my fantastic conversation with Ricky Skaggs. I’d definitely tell you about when I met Ronald Reagan and Dolly Parton at a star-studded Amway Convention in the old Indianapolis RCA dome. But I’m not one to brag.
Most of my time was spent on the road with Dave. He was a good man—rough around the edges but kind and a friend of God who’d seen a lot, both before and after he knew Jesus.
Dave didn’t talk much about life before Jesus, but you could learn indirectly by studying his tattoos when he wasn’t looking. I’m of an age where tattoos on Christians meant one of two things; either the person had a wild past before Jesus or, at some point, backslid. Either way, that person was cool and not in the contemporary Christian sorta way.
Just a side note, if you’re under 35, tattooed, and love Jesus, you need to find some older tattooed Christians and thank them. They pioneered a great work for you.
Dave had the kind of tattoos that let you know he had one hell of a former life. Some of them were rated R and made my 18-year-old virgin face blush.
While Dave didn’t talk much about that life, he absolutely loved to talk about Jesus. That’s all we did, when we weren’t eating steak and eggs.
After Dave got saved, he became a bouncer for Benny Hinn, or was that a catcher for Benny Hinn? I think he did a little of both.
Every Charismatic has heard of Benny’s book, Good Morning Holy Spirit. It greatly impacted me as a young man, and I recommend it to this day. But the rest of the world knows Benny from his white suits and David Copperfield-like presentations of signs and wonders.
Dave had stories supporting Benny’s showmanship and the authentic supernatural encounters with the Holy Ghost. When people fell under the power of the Holy Ghost, Dave caught them, and when Dave fell under the power, well, Dave was a big man. The way he told it, when he was bowled over by the Holy Ghost, he cried and laughed the whole time. “It was powerful, beautiful, transforming, and amazing,” he said with a sincerity that fascinated me.
Dave loved the Holy Ghost, Jesus, and our Father.
I did too. And I loved hearing Dave’s thoughts about the Trinity.
Dave was a Christian, and Jesus was his best friend. Mine, too. Truly. But when we talked about Jesus, Dave’s thoughts were fuller and better than mine. We both used the same words to describe Jesus, but Dave’s interpretation was deeper and more complete. Dave’s understanding of God’s goodness was also better than I understood it.
Dave’s Jesus was kind, patient, and loved everyone.
My Jesus was also kind, but a stickler for rules, patient if you obeyed Him, and loved everyone, even those He was against.; even those He sent to hell.
The Jesus Dave knew saved everyone. All were in Christ— (1)
The Jesus I knew? He wanted to save everyone, even though, as I was often taught, we were unworthy, depraved, and all like Adam, prone to wander—even those of us who no longer rode the hell train.
You know about the hell train, right?
That metaphorical Freightliner I was taught about in Sunday School? The locomotive all humanity is riding; all humanity except for those who prayed the prayer? You know, The Courier of souls? The Iron Horse to eternal punishment? The Death Diesel of Damnation we must convince sinners to de-board before they pass that last and final station?
You haven’t heard of this train?
Dave hadn’t heard of it either, which was strange because, based on his tattoos, he’d ridden it hard.
My point? Dave was a returned prodigal. He’d discovered our Father’s kindness in his darkest of days, and it led him home. He knew the wages of sin; he knew about hell too, which wasn’t metaphorical.
He also knew the embrace of reconciling love; he’d tasted the measureless “Father, forgive them” nature of Jesus. (2) He knew grace wasn’t earned or balanced; it was received.
Dave didn’t have my 18 years of Evangelical older brother indoctrination. He didn’t seem to know or care about striving for the Jesus who saved us from a sin-counting Father who demanded a gruesome payment in blood and death.
Dave seemed to know God in a way I didn’t. His faith was practical, easy, authentic. No striving, just being. No trying to love, just loving.
Dave, and my time with him, was an Emmaus Road in my life, a radical de-, and reconstruction. He was a GPS recalculation. I grew up knowing Jesus loved me, and I grew up knowing Jesus as my best friend, but in those six months I roadied with Dave, I awakened to a greater love and rediscovered Jesus in ways I never knew Him.
And Johnny Cash, too.
1 Galatians 2:20
2 Luke 23:34
This article is excerpted from my book, Leaving and Finding Jesus