Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD (08/03/17)
- TITLE: Prayer and Patience
By Yvonne Blake
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Such was this week’s work. A paper of scribbled notes lay before me. Sister Helen’s husband had been a matter of prayer at almost every mid-week service. I visited their home occasionally, but Ronald Benner was a hard man. If I kept to the subjects of fishing or football, he’d chat with me for hours, but if I even mentioned God’s goodness or the church, he would cut the conversation short and escort me to the door.
Once, when I first met him, I asked if he knew the Lord Jesus. You would have thought I asked if he was a traitor or a murderer. “I am doing right well in this life. I work hard. I don’t cheat on my wife or beat my kids. I don’t need God. He never did anything for me, and I’m not going to have anything to do with him!” He opened the front door and pointed to my car. “Get out of my house! Save your preaching for the women and babies.” The whole spiel was flavored with curses I hope I never hear again.
Although Ronald got used to me stopping in, he never came to church, not when Helen sang in the Christmas cantata or even for his granddaughter’s wedding. Every time I visited, after we talked of politics and sports and such, I’d insert a little of the Gospel, telling him that God forgives sin or that God is good to all of us even when we don’t deserve it. As always, Ronald would grunt and say, “It’s getting late. You best be gettin’ on home.” As I put on my hat, I’d say, “I’ll be praying for you.”
This went on for years, all of us praying hard for Ronald Benner and Sister Helen being one of the most patient ladies I have ever known. I knew he drank and smoked and gambled when he played cards with his buddies, but she never showed anything but love and tenderness toward him. I don’t know what went on behind the doors of their home, but I know that Helen Benner’s greatest wish was that her husband turn to her Lord, and the best thing she could do was to show God’s love to him – no matter how miserable he made her life. I’m sure there were many tear stains between the pages of her well-worn Bible.
One Thursday evening, right after I had gotten comfortable in my recliner, Sister Helen called. At first, I didn’t recognize the voice on the other end. “Pastor?” The next sentence or two were undecipherable between sobs. “. . . cancer is inoperable. There’s nothing we can do. . . (more sobbing) . . . praying and praying and now this?”
Of course, I put my shoes back on and drove over to the Benners’ house. Ronald was quite subdued. Helen’s hand shook as she poured me a cup of coffee, and her eyes were red.
“Just so you know, I didn’t want Helen to tell you.” Ronald fidgeted with the salt shaker on the table. “I don’t need your pity, your preaching, or your prayers. No one wants to die, but it’s a part of life. We’re born, we live the best we know how, and then we die. And it looks like my number is up.”
“You’re right. We all die, but it’s what we do with God’s gift of salvation that makes all the difference with what happens after we die.”
“I said I don’t want any preaching!” The chair fell backwards as he stood up. “Get out of here, and don’t come back until I call you!”
Poor Helen. Each Sunday, she shook her head when I asked about him. “Pastor, will you do the funeral?” How could I say no? So, here I sit trying to find something comforting to say at a funeral for a man who hated God. “Lord, help me.”
The phone rang. It was Helen. “Pastor, he’s gone.”
“But, Pastor, his last words were ‘Tell the preacher I was listening, and I'm all right now with God.”
With a laugh, I crumpled my notes. “Well, that changes everything!”
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