I’d Have to Change

I worked at Furrow Lumber, back at the Lumber Desk.  You came to that desk and we helped you find whatever you needed: two-by-fours, double-hung windows, storm doors, or a galvanized lock nut.  A member of my team there, named Don, became my friend.

One slow night Don an I were just chatting.  He seemed quite agitated so I asked what was wrong.  Life wasn’t fair, he thought.  His wife had left him in a bitter divorce and taken his two teenage boys to Colorado.  Living in Indiana, he had no money or time to go see the boys when it was “his weekend” to be with them.  They were effectively removed from his life.  Well played, ex-wife!

Don’s career had stalled, which is why he was picking up extra funds at Furrow on weekends like me.  His current live-in girlfriend had just kicked him out of the apartment they shared, keeping half his “stuff.”  He now lived in an efficiency apartment with just a mattress on the floor as his bed.  Then he shifted gears and shared about his health.  A serious heart chronic heart issue was slowly turning his heart muscle into un-functioning scar tissue.  He claimed he would be dead in ten years if he didn’t get a transplant, but had no insurance so he felt doomed.

Feeling that Don needed something more than just sympathy I invited him to church.  At that time I attended a large, healthy church with many active and diverse ministries that could have helped him with many of his issues.  He flared with anger and barked, “Never!”

Confused, I recapped his list of pain points.  “Look, your wife left you and took the kids.  You can’t see them.  Your latest girlfriend left you and kept most of your stuff.  Your career is stalled and your health is failing.  Why won’t you come to church and give God a chance?”

Don stood tall, sneered and pushed a stiff finger into my sternum.  “Because I’d have to change.”

I must say, I didn’t expect honesty like that.  I was flummoxed.  All the evangelism training I had ever had helped us discuss God with people who a feel unworthy, feel the church would cave in if they entered, or feel they have done nothing wrong.  I was never trained to deal with someone who said, “I know I’m a mess…but I OWN it!”

I thought for a moment and just feebly offered, “Yes, Don.  You would have to change.  That’s what Christianity does to people.  They change for the better.”

Don maintained his bitter anger.  “I know my life’s a mess, but it’s MY mess and I’ll fix it.”

That pretty much ended the evangelism session.  God doesn’t have much to say to someone who recognizes they are in need of a Savior, but vehemently refuse any help.  I also couldn’t help but wonder if this stubborn refusal to improve was why his relationships kept disintegrating in bitterness.

We eventually changed the subject and finished our shift.  A few months later I quit that 2nd job at Furrow and lost touch with Don.

As God’s plan would have it, I crossed paths with Don ten years later when I hired him to inspect my house.  We laughed as we reminisced about our time at Furrow.  As we walked to the car I probed again.  “So, is your life any better now, Don?”

He quickly updated me.  It wasn’t.  So, I invited him to church again and said, “You’ve had ten years with no progress, isn’t it time for some help?”  Don smiled and as he climbed into the same beat up clunker he had ten years ago and said, “No, thanks.”  He shut the door and drove away.  Same broken down car – same broken down man.

Now 15 years later I don’t even know if Don is alive, but I’ll bet you this: if he is, he still owns his mess of a life.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28