Fresh off the New Years Twilight Zone Marathon, it is only fitting I comment on “A Stop At Willoughby”.
“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 cannonaded 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.”
Any die hard Twilight Zone fan would recognize that classic Rod Serling intro to one of the most famous episodes ever: “A Stop At Willoughby”.
Remember? The burned out ad exec who keeps waking from his nap on the commuter train to envision a simpler, less stressful life outside the train window in a town called Willoughby?
The conductor tells him there is no such place or stop, but the man is convinced. He decides that the next time he wakes from his nap and sees it, he is going to get off the train. Well, he does, and he enters into this place called Willoughby, a “peaceful, restful place, where a man can slow down to a walk and live his life full measure.”
Back on the train we find that at the moment the man decided to get off the train, it was actually his demise, as he fell and was crushed under its wheels. The camera shows him being loaded into a hearse belonging to…yup…Willoughby & Son Funeral Home. (insert Twilight Zone theme here)
Great late 50’s and early 60’s sci-fi. It always seemed to teeter between truth and fantasy.
I think this episode is probably more pertinent today than it was back then.
How many people in armor suits do you know “held together by one bolt”?
I know plenty. You probably do too.
Maybe you’re one of them.
“Willoughby! Next stop, Willoughby!”
Who doesn’t need Willoughby? Who wouldn’t appreciate Willoughby?
You would be surprised.
That Twilight Zone episode is less like the Twilight Zone and more like life than we might care to ponder.
Certainly the pressure cooker existence is real.
But what of Willoughby?
Ok, there is no such Eden or Nirvana lost paradise we can hop a train to…
…but… what if we could transform where we are now, our own place, our own little world, our own private existence, into a better place?
Well, isn’t that what Jesus promised?
John 10:10 – “I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).”
This Twilight Zone character…Gart Williams…saw something he wanted, which contained the elements of joy and peace and comfort. It was life out of the pressure cooker. It was a less stressful environment where the frog could jump out of the kettle.
You know about the frog and the kettle, right?
Put a frog in a cold kettle on the stove and turn the heat up and he will not detect the gradual changes in temperature until it’s too late.
That’s what stress and being overwhelmed by life does. It slowly cooks us until by the time we realize we are in trouble….well…we just never heeded the signs along the way. Kaput.
If you don’t believe the Word from Jesus today, well, I guess there is nothing I can do about that.
You can gaze off on life’s train, napping and awakening from a fantasy vision of life perhaps getting better “someday”, and hold onto that until the grave. Hopefully you’re in “Willoughby” when you wake up. Unfortunately, today’s Willoughby is a quick fix of whatever offers hope other than Jesus.
Or…you can recognize the fact, as many of you do, that Jesus’ words are true and efficacious for your life right now.
Jesus…drug induced Willoughby…Jesus…whatever...
Yet the one safe venture on a life changing course will be ignored while the search continues for Willoughby.
I hope it’s Jesus for you today. I really do. I couldn’t tell you any of this with a clear conscience if it hasn’t been the greatest decision I ever made in my life.