I sat that morning, tucked away in a back booth of my favorite local restaurant, sipping coffee, trying to tune out the world and have a few minutes of peace before my busy day began. I was making good use of my paper napkin, jotting down my Saturday to-do list, so I didn’t forget anything. An appointment to get my oil changed headed the list, and a blur of chores was lining up under that. I sighed; staring at it, dreading the busy day ahead of me.
Unexpectedly, I heard someone call my name and I looked up to see a co-worker; Jim. My brain had registered immediate shock, as Jim usually avoided me. And not just me, Jim seemed to make it a point to avoid any of the Christian workers, especially those in our bible-study group.
When Jim asked to join me, I had to fight to keep the surprise off my face and prayed it was camouflaged with the big smile I put in place. This man had always seemed a bit sad to me, rarely smiling and very stand-offish and I had actually of late, begun to pray for him. So I thought, “take this slow, keep it low—don’t run him off the first time you really get to speak to him.”
“Good to get to talk to you Jim” I said, deciding to let him take the lead in where the conversation went.
To my further amazement, Jim sat and talked a good while; as we discussed family and how we were feeling. We talked about weather, food and prices and even his new cowboy hat. Jim brought up some work place grievances, and told of his recent vacation. But what was never mentioned was Jesus. What in my heart I knew needed discussing the most.
I sat, mentally questioning my previous “low-slow” reasoning and was on the verge of handing Jim the gospel track, I sat fingering in my pocket; when quite suddenly he jumped up saying he really needed to get going. “And from the looks of your list,” he pointed at my napkin, “it looks like you probably need to get going too.”
“Yeah right, I really do” I laughed, wondering why those simple, truthful words almost felt vile.
And as Jim stood there, seeming to hesitate a minute, my mind argued, “You need to witness to him—yes, I do, but if I offend him now by going there too soon, I’ll probably lose the chance! And it takes time and I have to get to my appointment…”
So, I cut off my thoughts, smiled and bid Jim goodbye. His eyes met mine and lingered a moment, before he nodded, put on that cowboy hat of his and left.
And when he left, I was left feeling troubled. I paid my bill and as I walked to my car, I looked around to see if Jim was still there. He was gone, so I reasoned with myself yet again, “My cautious approach was wise. God simply opened the door today for more visits. I’ll just build a friendship with Jim, take things slow and then on a better day; who knows, maybe even on our next chat; I’ll find the perfect opportunity to witness. It would have simply been foolish to come on too strong today, frighten him off, right off the bat.”
But that evening, through the grapevine, I heard words that chill me still. I learned there would not be a better day or another day—and the perfect opportunity had passed away.
“As Jim had been driving home, at too high a speed, he’d lost control,” my friend on the phone had said, “brought on by a blown out tire—and his car caught one fire…” As I heard “dead on arrival”, I sank to the floor and screamed, "NO!" God had placed in my hands, some of Jim’s final moments—and I’d let my moment to witness to him expire.
Footnote: This is a true story of someone I know who lives with this regret. I pray a story like it is never mine.
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