Sumter Pastor Clay Smith: Stuck? Help is on the way.


Our tradition, after the big Thanksgiving lunch, is to take a quick nap and then go for a ride in the pasture to look at the cows. This year we got a late start but made our way out about 30 minutes before sundown. My niece, her husband, her mother-in-law and her son, Smith, were with us, along with my son, daughter-in-law and my grandson. We slogged through a muddy spot, but I made it through with no trouble.

Smith is 4; my grandson is 2. To their eyes, the pasture is a wonderful, marvelous place. They saw lots of baby calves, a wild hog and a bunch of broad-winged hawks. Darkness was coming, however, and there was fried turkey waiting for us back at the house.

In the fading light, we turned around and came back to the muddy bog. I had come through once, so I knew I could make it through again. Life lesson: Just because you succeed once does not mean you will succeed again.

It was the time of dusk when it was hardest to see. The headlights do not really give definition and the natural light has faded, so you can't distinguish what is to the right or left. As I came back to the bog, the truck started slipping and sliding. The kids were thrilled. Why take them to Disney when a ride in the mud is more exciting? I knew there was a certain spot I needed to go through to make it to drier ground. I misjudged where the spot was, and my tires began to spin.

People who drive in the woods know when the tires begin to spin, you do not push harder on the gas. This will simply dig you in deeper. Instead, you "rock" the truck back and forth. I put it in reverse and went backward until I began to spin; then, I put it in drive and accelerated, hoping to get over the boggy spot that blocked me. I was already in four-wheel drive, so I knew "rocking" was my best hope. After five or six back-and-forth attempts, I could not go either direction. My tires were spinning, and the truck was resting on the frame. I was stuck - again.

Fortunately, we were not too far from the barn. A 10-minute walk, and I could get the tractor and pull out the truck. My niece's husband and my son argued with me about going, citing my bad knee as a reason to let them make the hike. I asked them which way the barn was. They pointed in opposing directions, neither of which was toward the barn. I asked if either of them knew how to run the tractor.

After an awkward pause, my son spoke up and said, "You better go, Dad."

By this time, darkness had descended. Everyone took refuge in the cab of the truck, and I started to walk out. I knew the way; I had been walking in these pastures and orange groves since I was a toddler. Still, the recent hurricane had washed new gullies in the pasture and had washed out middles in the orange groves. Going was slow.

After a few stumbles, I got back to the barn and got in the big tractor. I cranked it and started looking for the lights. I had never driven this tractor in the dark, so I never needed the lights before this.

This tractor was orange, not green, so it had been made overseas, and the lights were not where they were supposed to be.

It is possible to drive a tractor in the dark through an orange grove, but you have to go slowly. I did not want to practice Braille driving: hit a bump and turn. Searching for the lights, I accidentally hit a knob, and behold; there was light! I even found the work lights. Now able to see, I accelerated.

I got down to the bog, backed up and fished out a chain I keep in the bed of my truck (experience teaches you to be prepared). After a couple of false starts, we got the chain secured; I tightened up the chain and started to pull. The tractor popped the truck out of the bog like a cork out of a wine bottle. I kept pulling the truck until we got to the high ground. Inside the truck, there were cheers and laughter.

We all got back to the house, and I had to take a shower from the sweat and the mud. Cleaned up, I asked my daughter-in-law if anyone was scared.

"Not at all," she replied. "The boys watched a video, and the adults were grateful to be away from the mosquitoes and in the air conditioning. Besides, we knew you were coming for us."

Advent, the days leading up to Christmas, is knowing the hope that Jesus is coming for us. He is coming to pull us out of the bog of sin. If you are bogged down, do not wait in vain. Wait in hope.

His grace is more powerful than any tractor, and his love is stronger than any chain.

The Rev. Dr. Clay Smith is the lead pastor of Alice Drive Baptist Church in Sumter. Email him at