January 4, 2006

Willoughby

One of my favorite TV days of the year is the now traditional SciFi Channel's Twilight Zone New Year's Eve Marathon.

I never actually get to watch the whole marathon, for obvious reasons: children, responsibilities, life, etc. But I always want to watch it. One of these years I will actually sit down and watch the whole thing. This year I filled three 8-hour tapes, hoping for a chance to sit down and watch some of them at a later date.

I just finished watching one of my favorites. It is called A Stop at Willoughby. It starts off with this guy in a business meeting and everyone is just pounding him. Pushing him to work harder, to dedicate more. Everything is going wrong with the tasks that he is responsible for. And then while the commands are whirling around him, he snaps.

Enter Rod Serling:

"This is Gart Williams, age thirty-eight, a man protected by a suit of armor all held together by one bolt. Just a moment ago, someone removed the bolt and Mr. Williams' protection fell away from him and left him a naked target. He's been cannoned this afternoon by all the enemies of his life. His insecurity has shelled him; his sensitivity has straddled him with humiliation; his deep-rooted disquiet about his own worth has zeroed in on him, landed on target, and blown him apart. Mr. Gart Williams, ad agency exec, who in just a moment will move into the Twilight Zone in a desperate search for survival!"


Next thing you know he is on a train headed home. It is the middle of winter and his is looking out the window at the snow. As he is gazing out the window, he dozes off, only to be awakened a few moments later by a conductor announcing the last call for a little town called Willoughby. Having taken the same train for year upon year, he is a little alarmed at this announcement.

He gets up and looks out the window at a small Mayberry-like town in what appears to be mid-July. The town is complete with children on their way to go fishing, families enjoying an afternoon stroll and the beautiful town square with a white gazebo... everything that a little town could want. When asked about this town, the conductor describes it as, "a place where a man can slow down and live his life full measure."

The first two times that he encounters this place, he doesn't get out. He simply sits back and contemplates this place. Is it real? Is he just dreaming? What is this place?

Meanwhile, the world keeps pushing him. His boss, his co-workers, his family: everything keeps pushing, until finally he says to himself, "... next time, next time I am getting off."

And so he does.

He steps off of the train into this warm July day, in the town of Willoughby. People there begin to greet him as if they have always known him. And he walks off into the town, forgetting the world that he left behind.

I think that I like this episode so much because I know that is how I feel sometimes. This world is too fast and pushy. Work is ever-present here. There is always something that needs to be done. And there is an endless flow of heart-ache and trial.

We all long for rest.

But there is a greater rest than a Willoughby has to offer. There is a true rest that can be found only in Jesus, who is known as The Prince of Peace. He is the creator of peace. He is the creator of rest. He even invites us to it! In his own words while on this earth, he states, "Come. All who are weary and burdened. Enter into my rest."

At the end of the Twilight Zone episode, you see the body of Mr. Gart Williams laying in the snow. You see, in reality he had jumped from the moving train. There are a couple of guys there from a funeral home... A funeral home owned by Willoughby & Son, and they are wondering why this man would do this.

Once again, enter Rod Serling:
"Mr. Gart Williams, who sought respite from torment under a gravestone; who climbed on a world that went by too fast and then...jumped off. Mr. Gart Williams, who might now tell us what awaits us in the beyond...because this, too, is a part of...The Twilight Zone!"


But unlike Mr. Gart Williams, we do not have to find this rest by hopping off of a train. We may have climbed on a world that is moving by too fast, but our rest does not have to wait until death. It can begin now, and continue on forever, beyond the gates of death.

Are you weary and heavy laden? Seek Christ.