I knocked on the door of Bill’s first-floor condo, not knowing what to expect. But since I was infused with the desire to share Christ and had already shared with two others that day, I was ready to confront Bill, who was always reticent if not resistant to my message of God’s love for him. I suppose that if I had been him, I would have been so inclined myself. He suffered from stomach cancer, he’d had a portion of his colon removed, and he wore a bag for elimination.
In spite of his quiet demeanor, I had taken a liking to him, and especially when I learned he had been a writer for a music magazine and had at the same time been a drummer for a rock band in San Francisco during the turbulent sixties. (I, too, had been into the music scene, singing on stage in musicals as well as writing songs and was with BMI for a while.) In fact, Bill admitted being a radical druggie at the time. Although he was raised in a quiet Naples neighborhood, he had a wild streak in him and left home to seek his fortune elsewhere like so many other young people at the time, and he ended up in San Francisco.
Bill was a good student and had applied to various universities for medical training but was forced to wait in a long line of more privileged young people. That made him more resistant to the establishment, and it pushed him into the radical drug culture.
Surprisingly, drug abuse didn’t affect his mental acuity, and he could hold his own with a more stable person. Although I have never even smoked a joint, I am constantly reminded of mankind’s resiliency in being able to bounce back after years of drug abuse.
In any case, I knocked lightly and finally rang the doorbell, not knowing what reaction to expect. Bill answered the door with a towel wrapped around his huge girth and a loose-fitting shirt draped over the top of it. He was surprised to see me standing there.
“Jim… what brings you here?”
“I haven’t seen you in a while and wondered how you were doing.”
We began making small banter when he finally asked me, not knowing where else to turn.
My intent was to make the Gospel known to him verbally and in full – not just by my actions. This has always been my modus operandi right from the git-go over forty years ago. And so, when I stepped inside the tiny apartment, I noticed it was clean except for the empty bottles standing next to one another on the kitchen counter and on the floor in front of it. There must have been sixty or seventy clean, clear empty tequila quart bottles row after row, waiting to be thrown out into the trash bin next to the parking lot in a cement block cubical.
“Have a seat,” Bill urged as he flicked off the television that was reviewing a soccer match somewhere in the world. (Soccer was his favorite thing to follow.)
“How have you been?” I finally inquired.
“Oh, so-so; please excuse the bottles. I haven’t had the strength or will to put them in the trash,” Bill said as he sat in the big, plush easy chair draped with a big, worn beach towel. I sat in the only other chair across from him with a small table between us.
“Care for a drink?” he asked.
“Tequila! Margaritas are all I ever drink, and as you can see, I drink at least one every night before bedtime.”
We had barely begun conversing when the phone rang; it was his mother calling from the nursing home where she had been residing for the past few years. “Jim, my friend from the fishing pier, is here. He’s the first visitor I’ve had in the past several years.” They only talked for a couple of minutes, and Bill insisted on showing me his knife magazine to show me his latest acquisition for his collection. “Should be here this week.”
After a little more small talk, I finally got down to the business of sharing the Gospel with “my fishing buddy,” with whom I never really fished but only talked to.
“I came to let you know that God cares about you and that Christ came to die for your sins and mine.”
At this, Bill nearly jumped out of his easy chair. “I’ve heard that B. S. over and over, and I don’t buy it!” Bill got up, and just when I thought he was going to get violent, he walked to the small bedroom, saying, “Let me show you my bible!”
Coming back out of the bedroom, he held a glossy covered book indicative of a self-published tome. It was a book written by an atheist/philosopher, the title of which I’ve forgotten.
So now I knew he had only been using me and was tolerant of my good behavior toward him because I always gave him a ride home in my car out of concern for his condition.
His rabid reaction did nothing to quench my concern for him and didn’t surprise me in the least; I knew he was an atheist.
“Let me tell you about my conversion,” I began. Then I told him of my dramatic conversion, which led up to my vision later in life. From there, I went on with my encounter with Satan in which God told me, “I have given you over to Satan to sift you like wheat, but you will not die; for I am praying for you. And when you recover, you shall go out and strengthen the brethren.” Bill just sat there with his mouth agape and never said another word.
I fished into my shirt pocket and pulled out a little red book with Bible verses in it pertaining to the Gospel and laid it on the corner of the kitchen counter that was just big and clear enough to receive it. “Let me leave you with this little booklet so that you fully understand what you’re dealing with…. Goodbye, Bill.”
Forrest Gump said, “Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get.” That is why I enjoy engaging in conversation with strangers, especially concerning spiritual things.