No, the title is not misspelled. This is another story in which we risked saying a few more words to someone other than, “God loves you” or “Jesus loves you.” This one also occurred while we were out of state. We happened upon a garage sale sign just outside of a town, in a lovely subdivision that backed up against the national forest. Our vehicle automatically turns in at garage sales, and this time, we were lucky—there were three garage sales in a row!
We walked around all three, and I think we found only one or two items. There wasn’t much there that sparked our interest. However, one of the women sitting at the table where we paid for the items seemed to be a special assignment from God. She was in her early 60s and skinny as a rail. After we paid for the items and walked toward the car, my wife said, “I want to give her a Bible.” We often carried extras in our vehicle for just this type of occasion. As we searched our vehicle, none were to be found. My wife stated, “I know we are supposed to give her one. We’ll have to go get one and come back.”
We drove the 15 miles to where we were staying and retrieved a Bible. Upon returning to the garage sales, the woman was nowhere to be found. Another woman overheard us inquiring about her and walked up to the table. She said, “Oh, you’re talking about Carol. She was helping with the garage sale this morning. She’s just a neighbor.” We found out that she lived three houses down and had only been at the garage sale for a short time that morning—the same short time as when we had been there.
The ladies gave us directions to her house. I stayed in the car. Sarah knocked on the door several times before the lady appeared. When she did finally appear, she reeked of alcohol. Sarah reminded the woman that earlier in the day at the garage sale we had bought a few items from her. The woman said she remembered Sarah who then explained that she felt like she was supposed to give Carol a Bible and tell her God loved her. The woman gripped the door and began to shake uncontrollably. She said that she needed to hear about God because she had had a near-death experience the day before and was so afraid.
Sarah asked her if she wanted to share her story. Carol explained that she had been out walking the day before and had been cut off on her return path by a bear. The bear reared up on its hind legs and then charged. In fear for her life, Carol tried to run. She stumbled backward and fell, screaming and clawing, certain that the approaching bear that was only a few feet away was going to kill her. Neighbors heard the screams and quickly arrived on the scene. The bear had given what appeared to be a “false charge”, but in her terror, Carol had soiled herself. She was so terrified that she couldn’t walk and had to be carried back to her house. She said that this was the most terrifying and most humiliating experience she had ever had. She said that night that she drank herself to sleep and all she could think about was what would have happened to her if she had died? She was not only afraid of being killed by the bear but was terrified of the hereafter.
Sarah said that maybe that was why God had put it on her heart to come visit the woman today. Would she like to hear about God? The woman said she would but didn’t have much time. She had custody of her grandson and had to be at an event with him.
While this conversation was taking place, I could see my wife talking to the lady on the porch. And although I didn’t know the dialogue, I could tell by the body language something interesting was taking place. Later, when Sarah told me the details of the conversation, I think the fact that I stayed in the car made it more comfortable for the woman to relay her story.
Sarah gave the woman the Bible and her phone number. Off and on for months afterward, we had conversations with this woman. During these conversations, we explained what salvation through Jesus was and that we were all sinners who needed redemption. During none of these conversations would Carol commit to giving her life to God. She only wanted to hear about Him but did not want to take any action on her part. She would ask questions, and we would answer them as best we could. As time wore on, the fearful episode Carol experienced with the bear began to fade. Her desire to get to know God waned. She told Sarah one day that she refused to believe that she was a sinner. To her, the God who loved her and protected her was acceptable, but it was repugnant to her that this same God would expect her to admit she was a sinner and expected her to give up her life to His control. That was outrageous to her. She reasoned that she was not a sinner because she had never hurt anyone.
Try as we may, she would not accept that all humans must go through a redemptive process to be born again before they can gain entrance to Heaven—it’s not necessarily about being evil and hurting people that makes one a sinner. The mere fact of being without God is a sin. At some point, we must all actively, on purpose, invite Him in and give our lives over to Him.
While we all agreed that God had orchestrated the events that intersected us with Carol—the timing of the garage sale, which had been scheduled days or weeks before, which happened to be the day after the bear incident, and the fact that we happened to arrive as customers the same few minutes that she was giving her neighbor a break and sitting at one of the tables, the fact that she was wondering what would happen to her when she died, and was in fact wondering if there was a God, the fact that two strangers show up, and one of them goes out of her way to get a Bible and bring it back to her, so that she can know about God, in the end, to our knowledge, Carol never accepted God into her life.
After about a year, we lost touch with Carol. Strangely enough, she called us one night. Her grandson who had been playing high school football was severely injured and had to be care lifted by helicopter to a hospital. She was enroute to the hospital and asked us to pray for all involved. We were glad to, but we had to wonder…she acknowledged the idea of a God but refused to accept that she was in need of a Savior—she preferred the “genie in the bottle” type of God. And that just isn’t real.
Not every story ends the way we would like it to. Sometimes all we can do with the people God intersects us with is just plant the seed. In God’s time, He will send the rain.