When I saw his name on my appointment book, I did a double take. Could this be the same Jack Jones* I know? I wondered.
For many years, Jack was like a big brother to me. He took me to the State House to feed peanuts to squirrels, introduced me to Chick-Fil-A, and bought my first Helen Reddy album. Although he was several years older than I, he wasn’t too cool to be seen with me.
A second glance at the appointment book, however, told me something that made my heart stop.
HIV positive the note said.
All afternoon long, I wrestled with the implications of those two words. I’d lost touch with Jack and hadn’t seen him for years, but I’d heard rumors that he’d embraced a dangerous lifestyle. Now, it seemed, he was reaping the consequences of his choices.
As the time neared for his appointment, my heart beat harder. My head spun with questions and fearful thoughts. I was worried about his physical condition, but I was even more concerned about his spiritual one. I prepared to ask him first about his health and then about his soul. This may be my only opportunity to talk with him about where he’ll spend eternity, I thought. I knew it was no accident that Jack had chosen the office where I worked, even though he had no idea I worked there. It was a divine appointment.
When he walked through the door, my heart sank. I recognized him immediately, although I could tell he was very, very sick. He was surprised to see me, and after we worked through some initial awkwardness, I seated him in my dental chair.
“Before you get started,” he said, holding up his hand as I reached for an instrument, “there’s something you need to know.”
“It’s okay,” I said, cutting him off. “I know.”
Somehow I made it through his appointment, lapsing into the familiar routine of scaling, rinsing, and polishing while my thoughts continued to swirl. How do I begin? I wondered. What do I say? What if he’s hostile or defensive? Finally, after the dentist checked his teeth and left the room, I gathered my courage.
“Jack,” I said, “I’m glad your teeth are okay, but we’ve got more important things to talk about. If you died today, do you know for sure you’d go to Heaven?”
“Lori,” he said, “I lived my life my way for many years. I was partying and doing stuff I knew was wrong, but I didn’t care. I turned my back on God.” He paused and collected his thoughts. “And you know what? I’d still be living that way if it wasn’t for HIV.”
He raised his eyes and continued. “I’ve asked God to forgive me, and I’m trusting him to walk with me through the rest of my life.” He paused again. “Someone asked me if I was mad at God for letting me get HIV. I told him I wasn’t.” He laughed softly, shaking his head. “God used HIV to save me from myself.”
We laughed through misty eyes at the irony of it all and talked about how God sometimes allows what he hates to accomplish what he loves.**
I visited him several times after that. We studied the book of 1 Peter until he became too weak to concentrate. My mother called me one day with the news that he’d passed away.
I miss Jack sometimes, when I hear a Helen Reddy song or bite into a Chick-Fil-A sandwich. I wish sin and disease hadn’t ended his life. I wish we’d had longer to share the joy of his salvation. It comforts me that we’ll have an eternity to catch up.
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
What about you? Have you ever taken a risk to share the Gospel? I’d love to hear your story. Leave a comment below to bless us all.
*I’ve changed Jack’s name in this account, but I promise to introduce you when we meet someday in Heaven.
**This idea came from Joni Earekson Tada.
BIO: Lori is a popular teacher and women’s ministry speaker. Encouraging and equipping, she challenges women to follow hard after God. With transparency and humor, Lori enjoys speaking at Ladies’ Events and Women’s Retreats. She is the author of Joy in the Journey: Encouragement for Homeschooling Moms. Lori relates well to women in all walks of life from her perspective as a devotional writer, healthcare professional, veteran homeschooling mother, and youth pastor’s wife. You can reach her through her website, Hungry for God, or at loriahatcher (at) gmail.com.
(Man on bench image courtesy of www.Morguefile.com)