The snow swirled angrily around us as we inched along a remote western Canadian highway in the darkened solitude of a late December evening. Returning from my father’s funeral in Ohio, our third parent to die in six months, we were oh-so-weary and yearning for home. Soon the winds began to howl, driving the blinding snow across an obliterated prairie landscape. A blizzard! Bud could no longer see anything but white; we had to get off the road and stay off until the storm passed.
Following the reddish blur of a 16 wheeler’s taillights we pulled into a parking lot where a bevy of truckers were gathered discussing the blizzard. “Supposed to last all night.” “They’ve closed the road ahead due to zero visibility.” “Guess we’ll park here and wait out the storm.”
Behind a dimly lit old convenience store was an equally dimly lit derelict building bearing a flickering sign ‘Prairie Pride Motel.’ Even through the snowy blast it was obvious that whatever pride had once been there was long gone. I was dubious about getting a room in such a run-down looking place, but Bud had been driving for over twelve hours and was exhausted. And we certainly did not want to sleep in the car during a blizzard.
A single light bulb swinging crookedly from a wire in the ceiling threw wisps of light across the narrow interior hallway. Scraped and scuffed, the room doors hung loosely from their hinges, as if the slightest puff of wind would dislodge them from their frames. A skeletal middle-aged woman, cigarette dangling from her lips, ignored us as she carelessly slouched over the cleaning cart she propelled down the hall. This was not promising.
Where’s the Pride?
Well, we reasoned, maybe the rooms themselves were in better shape. Ha! Ever watch one of those spy movies where the hero has to hide out in a decrepit old building in some bleak place like Siberia? A set designer could not have created a more convincing setting for that kind of scene than our lodgings that night.
Our room was ‘decorated’ in early garage sale with no two pieces of furniture or linens matching anything else. A microwave with the glass door bashed in sat on a rickety table and two double beds slumped against opposite walls. Totally worn out, Bud dropped onto one of beds and fell asleep.
Our daughters lead me over to the overstuffed armchair. “Here, Mom, you rest while we tidy up.” Gratefully I sank down in it…all the way to the floor! Choking down our laughter (we did not want to wake Bud up!) I thrust my arms up while the girls each grabbed an arm and, with Herculean effort and a modicum of noise, hauled me out of the chair.
Still Looking for that Pride
I wanted to freshen up after the long drive but the bathroom …..well let’s just say some abandoned gas stations had cleaner bathrooms than this place. I carefully examined the well-worn face cloth and took the plunge to wash my face and hands. No way was I getting into the shower which was a graveyard to generations of entomological specimens and boasted multiple layers of dirt.
After shoving a rickety chair up under the doorknob (at least the clattering chair would wake us up if someone huffed and puffed and blew the door in!) I gingerly sat on the edge of the bed trying to figure out how to lie down without rolling to the middle or disturbing my husband. My weary mind finally settled on a plan – balance my torso on the very edge of the mattress and hang an arm and a leg off the bed so I would not roll to the middle. (OK – here I tried not to think about what might be under the bed that would find dangling appendages enticing.) The girls covered me with my coat (no way was I going to sleep between the sheets!) while I tried to settle in for some rest.
This Place Did Not Live Up to Its Name
The stuffy room reeked of smoke so, despite the bitter cold, our daughters opened the window. Ah! Fresh air! A parking lot light brightened the room allowing me to watch with weary amusement as the two girls finally laid down to get some sleep, each promptly rolling to the middle of the bed while the sides of the mattress flipped up engulfing them like a giant tortilla.
Arms and legs thrashing about they finally figured out how to balance themselves so sleep might be possible. Soon all was silent…..for a few moments. Two truckers walking around outside stopped directly under our open window and began arguing – loudly. What a night!
We slept fitfully that night and were relieved to find the storm had passed before we drove off early the next morning. A parting irony was the hand-scribbled sign taped to the office door: ‘No Vacancy – (Tonight Only.)’ As if!
We Bear the Sign ‘Christian’
Since that experience our family has used the phrase ‘Prairie Pride’ to describe anything which sounds like one thing but delivers something entirely different. Not one thing about that location offered anything which a typical traveler would call pride.
I began thinking about how we can wear the sign of ‘Christian’ and yet sometimes not live or act as Christians should. Like it or not people hold us to a higher standard when they know we are believers.
And they should, and so should we. Our standard is God’s Word. Not culture, not personal opinion, not ‘flavor of the day’ theological ideas, but the Word of God. We are to model ourselves after the person of Christ and be Christians, or ‘little Christs.”
Is Your Sign a Joke?
When we saw the ‘Prairie Pride’ sign we had certain expectations that some pride would be taken in how our room looked. When that was not the case the name seemed to be a joke. When others see the ‘sign’ Christian, what do they expect? Something that follows a biblical standard. What do they actually see? Are we a joke to them because we say we are Christians and behave in an ungodly way?
We should not be surprised when someone rejects Christ and Christianity because of Christians’ blatantly ungodly choices. Let’s NOT be like that. We need to ask God to help us live out our name Christian in every aspect of our lives. Unlike the Prairie Pride which did not live up to its name, by God’s grace we can be Christians who do live up to theirs!
 There are several reputable (and clean) motels bearing the same name.