I was taking advantage of the good weather the other day to do some much needed maintenance at my house. The gutters needed cleaned, the bushes trimmed and the leaves raked from the lawn and put on the mulch pile. After blowing the leaves from the rain gutters and trimming the bushes, I set about to get the leaves out of the yard. Last year I had bought a mulching mower with a bag attachment that spares me from the arduous task of raking, bagging and hauling the leaves away. My Dad would call it the "lazy man's way" of doing the job -- and I suppose he's right. I prefer to think of it as putting technology to work for me.
I cranked the engine on the mower and made a swath by the driveway marveling at how clean the path behind me was. As I neared the curb, the neighbor lady across the street turned her small truck into her driveway. I looked up, just long enough to see who it was, then returned my gaze to the ground. When I reached the street, I stopped and turned the mower. During my turn, I was startled to see this lady standing about three feet from me. I wondered what she wanted for, though they have lived there nearly a year, they don't normally speak or even wave. I thought that maybe she had heard me grousing about her barking dog the day before and was going to set me straight. But I had only muttered to myself. She couldn't have heard it.
Without any preliminary small talk, she asked, "You're a preacher, aren't you?" I suppose someone in the neighborhood had told her.
"Yes, I am," I tentatively replied wondering why she asked.
"Did you hear about the girl who got killed in ______, Georgia (she specified a town) the first part of this month?" she asked. Her voice trembled, her eyes teared. She bit her lip.
"No. I had not heard of it."
"Well, she was murdered. She was my sister. Now, I'm not a church goer but I am asking those who are to pray for her. Would you?" The tears began to freely flow from her eyes.
"I will pray. I will pray for you and for your family. I am really sorry to hear of your loss."
She crossed the street and went into her house. The mower was still running. The whole episode had only taken 30 seconds. I resumed my work, my mind racing.
How sorry I felt for this girl. I realized how insulated our lives are. Here this woman, living just across the street, had experienced a great tragedy and I knew not one thing of it. I also realized how in this tragedy she was so desperately seeking comfort, a way to ease her pain, that she would approach a total stranger about it.
She hadn't asked me to pray for her but for her sister who had died. I did not want to tell her but, at this point in time, praying for her sister would not help. Her fate, no matter what it may be, is now sealed. Hebrews 9:27 says that only judgment follows death. There was no hope I could give her that would change her sister's destiny. But I can try to change hers.
I am praying for her and for her family. I am praying for the opportunity to influence her with the gospel of Christ. I may not be able to affect her sister's destiny but I can try to positively influence hers. I pray that in some way she can see the need to be a "church goer" and seek out the Lord's church and His gospel. I'll try to be a better neighbor, set a proper example and seek opportunities to speak and talk -- things I should have been doing all along.
May each of us be reaching out to others with the hope that Christ gives in his gospel. It may be too late to help the dead but we must try to reach the living.