High Plains Driftwood

DRIFTERDuring my senior year of college, I worked nights performing backups on a Wang computer system. It was the first time in my life that I was given a Log On ID that required me to supply a password. Hey, this could be fun.

I had always been intrigued by Clint Eastwood’s Spaghetti Western character, “the man with no name,” and I thought that one of Eastwood’s movie titles captured his character’s cool mystique—High Plains Drifter. So, I chose the password, “drifter.”

There was irony in my choice. I had no idea how well that label fit me.

I wasn’t a quiet, cool, steely-eyed gunslinger. I was an unsure young man who didn’t know my own identity. In that sense, I really was the man with no name. And because I didn’t know who I was, I would soon start my life in the world as a drifter.

Riding my trusty, directionless horse, Mosey, I just floated along with the flow of the river. Headed nowhere in particular, I ended up here and there–wherever the currents took me.

As the years passed, the thought of being a drifter began to haunt me. No longer was the drifter a romantic image of the cool, mysterious stranger. Instead, It had become a disturbing symbol of my own aimlessness.

So, when I watched the movie Count of Monte Cristo in 2002, one scene really bothered me. Luigi Vampa and his band of thieves find Dantes washed up on the shore after his harrowing escape from prison. Luigi gives Dantes the name “Zatara,” When he explains, “It means, “Driftwood,”  Luigi and all his companions have a laugh at Dantes’ expense…

The enemy taunted me through that scene.  “That’s your name–Zatara.” 

I even mocked myself by mixing movie metaphors: “I’m High Plains Driftwood.”

I was tired of drifting. I wanted to tie ol’ Mosey to the nearest hitching post, and find a horse I could ride with purpose to my appointed destination. But God knew that I would never find my aim until first I knew my name. So, He set me on a painful path that lead me to a healing discovery of who I am in Christ..

When Jesus appeared on this earth, many were confused about who He was. But Jesus was sure of His own identity, and clear about His mission. He came to restore our lost identities. He came to give each of us our name, so that what we do in life flows from who we are in Him.

I’m still in God’s process, and I’m still His work in progress, but I’m no longer adrift on random currents. Now that I know who I am, I’m starting to get into the flow of what God is doing, and I’m beginning to move in His direction.

Since I don’t go by the name “drifter” anymore, I put Mosey up for sale. I wouldn’t recommend buying her–unless you don’t much care where you’re going.  🙂


8 thoughts on “High Plains Driftwood

  1. What’s in a name?
    Quite a bit, come to think of it.
    A rose by any other name might smell as sweet, but let’s be real, the rose knows it’s a rose.
    And therein lies the problem.
    For so long I didn’t know who I was and so I let others tell me. I let others name me. And it’s funny how I always embraced the names that cut me to the heart (although it’s not funny at all).
    It wasn’t until I got to know my Creator that I was able to finally know myself.
    He knows me.
    He knows my name.

    • “For so long I didn’t know who I was and so I let others tell me. I let others name me. And it’s funny how I always embraced the names that cut me to the heart.” That’s exactly it. The enemy will use any available vehicle to deliver a message to us. He’ll offer a name and look for our agreement to it. We can enter into voluntarily captivity to a false identity–or several–until Someone sets us free. Thank you, again, for your insightful comments.

  2. Interesting.

    I drifted for years, until I figure The Man lost patience, and sent a storm to wreck me on a jagged shore. I had no choice, then, but to focus on survival.

    As, in, “God? HELP!”

    I’m still wrecked, but He lay me out on the sand, above the waves, and told me, in the unofficial motto of Marine corpsmen in every theater…

    “You won’t die alone. And you won’t die in pain.”

    (Yes, corpsmen are actually Navy pharmacists mates, but they are by the blood, Marines.)

    • Our stories are different, Andrew, and I would not try to compare them, but there are themes that are common to both our stories. In very different ways, we both have been wrecked by God for our ultimate good. And neither of us have any idea just how good our ultimate good will be when we pass through death’s door and into new life. For now, we lean into God, always remembering His promise that we neither live alone nor die alone. Thanks so much for your comments. They are weighty words from a man who does not have the luxury of dealing in trivialities.

  3. Dave, a beautiful post today. It took me a long time to become comfortable with who God created me to be. I called myself Christian for years, but I still sought to create a different identity for myself. One I wanted others to think about me. Our ladies retreat this fall is about masquerades, no not the ball, but the masquerades we wear. I’ve been thinking a lot about this.

    I am God’s girl. I’m so glad to belong to Him, and to have Him call me by name. He knows the name He’s given me. I don’t need to come up with my own (mom, wife, writer, etc). I guess I’m kind of rambling. You just helped me put words to some thoughts in my head (for better or for worse).

    BTW, I LOVED The Count of Monte Christo, and the grace woven throughout the story. I need to watch it again.

    • It seems to be common for us to seek to manufacture an alternate identity. Just like you said, we prefer to wear a mask that conceals the identity God wants to reveal. To pick up BKV’s quote, “It shouldn’t be this hard to be ourselves.” Thank you so much for contributing your thoughts today, Jeanne. Oh, and I like the Count of Monte Cristo, too. It is about time to watch that again.

  4. Dave, great post. I’m finding out who I am by the process of elimination. I’ve listened to others for too long and usually haven’t liked what I’ve heard. In fact, I realized they were telling me who they were, not who I was, but I didn’t know that at the time. One by one, I’m getting rid of those names/labels and finding out what God has to say. You’re right, it’s a process.

    Oh, just in case I get tired of being a work in progress, how much is Mosey? 🙂

    • “I realized they were telling me who they were, not who I was” That is a very insightful statement. It’s a strange phenomenon when people project themselves on to us and then are critical of their own projection. It’s very confusing before you figure out what’s going on. I am glad you are shedding those old phony labels and letting God name you.
      As for Mosey, I’ll only sell him to you for firewood because we’re both in this process for the long haul 🙂

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