#309 Another chance to have an eternal conversation.
I read it as I review my list of 1000 gifts, and it haunts me.
Because I missed that chance.
Trips back "home" to Montana from Florida are very infrequent because of the expense--maybe once every three years or so--yet this year I was able to go twice.
Once for a 50th anniversary, once for a wedding. Happy occasions.
During both trips, my sweet mother encouraged me to get together with my much-loved advisor from college. He was more than a teacher to me, he was truly a mentor. The first person to get it through my thick skull that I was rather smart, but regrettably lazy when it came to academics, he challenged me to live up to my potential. He had a wonderful way of challenging without pushing. Imagine a really intense cheerleader.
"He's been sick. This may be your last chance to see him."
I believed her--but I didn't. This man was a physical and intellectual powerhouse; my mind could not fathom that he would let even cancer defeat him.
Still, I tried.
I was fairly certain he was an atheist, so if he was indeed that sick, there was a conversation we needed to have. Knowing him as I did, I was doubtful that he would have ears to hear of things eternal and supernatural, but I also knew that my responsibility was simply to speak and trust the Holy Spirit to do what He would with it.
I called and was shocked at the defeated, feeble voice on the other end. He was happy to hear from me, but lacked the energy even to pretend to sound cheerful. He was having some medical tests the next morning, but he and his wife (another favorite of mine) both wanted to get together and talk. We set up a time for the next afternoon.
The time of our appointment came and went, and I received a call that the tests had led to further tests. They would be at the hospital very late. He would call me the next day--which was my last day in town.
He didn't call. Mother said they had likely gotten very bad news and it would be best to leave them alone.
Well, I had tried.
I still could not wrap my mind around the reality that he wouldn't live to a ripe old age, like every good Kansan that I know. Also, in the back of my mind I assumed there would be another chance.
Three months later a dear friend from high school was getting married and we flew back to Montana again just for the weekend.
Another chance to have an eternal conversation.
We were busy that weekend visiting with other transplanted Big Sky natives who were in town for the festivities. Not so busy, however, that I couldn't have squeezed in a phone call or visit--and an eternal conversation. Just busy enough that I could avoid thinking about it.
I think I was a bit afraid. How do you start that conversation? "So, I hear you're dying...."
What would I say to impress the importance of saving faith on a man who didn't believe in eternity? So much uncertainty, which I dealt with by procrastinating.
The weekend came and went, and I never called.
Three days later he died. There would not be another chance.
Shortly after he died, my good friend shared a video with me of Penn Jillette of "Penn and Teller" fame. In it, the very passionate atheist tells a story of a man who came to his show, waited in line, praised his performance, and then very humbly and intelligently offered to share the Gospel with him.
The comedian would have none of it, but in the video it was obvious that the man had stirred something in him because the Christian stranger had cared enough to share with him.
At one point Jillette looked dead at the camera and challenged professing Christians, "If you really believe that I will spend eternity in hell if I don't follow your Jesus-- if you really believe that-- how much do you have to hate a person not to share your faith with them?"
Did I hate my beloved professor? NO! But when it came right down to it, I loved my comfort more.
Oh, Father in Heaven, forgive me. Help me to love others in way that matters eternally. Help me to love them enough to be rejected by them and thought foolish. Over and over in Your Word, You tell Your people to go and proclaim--and to trust You to give them the right words at the right moment. Father, forgive me for forgetting and for not trusting You. Help me to never miss another opportunity to have an eternal conversation.