Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Man Knows Not His Time: An in-My-Face Reminder

Whatever you do, don't read this story and think that I'm a model evangelist. Far from it. This is just one story, but I hope these events push me a step towards that goal.

I do almost all my grocery shopping at a small chain store a mile from my house—usually on Monday nights, often fairly late. Wally World isn't much further away, and the selection there is better, but the lines are a nightmare. Over the past couple years, I had been developing a friendly relationship with an older gentleman named Edward—I think in his late 70s—who waxed the floors and did other work during the day. He seemed to be there no matter what time of day or day of the week I popped in. I don't know if I've ever met a kinder, more helpful, more diligent employee in any retail sales job, let alone someone stuck working until 11 p.m. in a grocery store.

As we talked more and more, I felt increasingly compelled to talk with Edward about the gospel. For several weeks in October in November of last year, there was always a reason why I couldn't. I was in a hurry, or he was tied up in his duties. December 12th was the last time I saw him before I left town for Christmas, and as providence would have it, we had the chance to talk. Before long in our conversation I talked with him about my faith and the gospel, and I asked him if he had ever trusted Christ for salvation. He said that he had a long time ago, and he talked about the change Christ had brought about in his life. We talked about his church and how God had worked in our lives. Here in the south it can be difficult to know whether you're talking to a nominal Christian or a genuine believer, but he gave much evidence of a credible profession of faith.

After I got back into town after Christmas, I had been in the store a couple times, but I hadn't seen him at the usual times. Last night I didn't see him again, so I asked the guy working on the floor if Edward was doing all right. This man told me that the week before Christmas, Edward collapsed at work, went into a coma, and died a couple days later.

That news gave me a sick feeling in my stomach, but not nearly as sick as if—by God's grace—I hadn't had (or made) the opportunity to talk with him just a few days before his death. I don't want to moralize or make some emotional appeal out of this. I'm just thankful that, in this instance at least, God worked in such a way that my conscience is clear. My hope is that I'll see Edward in eternity, and my prayer is that these events will spur me forward in my sanctification. May God do the same for you.

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