7/17/10 Billy about 50
I struck up a conversation with an older African-American man as he was fishing at a park lagoon. After about 5 minutes of small talk about fishing, strained somewhat because Billy seemed guarded, I swung our conversation in a spiritual direction, first by telling him that I am from a local church and that I'd really like to find out his opinions on spiritual things, and then I asked if he has any spiritual beliefs. He said he believes in God but doesn't believe in church or in being religious. He's had some bad experiences at church, with people acting hypocritical and always asking for money, so I told him if it were me I'd leave my wallet at home but that I've visited many churches that weren't like that at all. Then I asked about his thoughts about heaven and how he might do on judgment day. Billy turned out to be one of the few people I've met that thinks he would go to hell - though his lack of outward concern about it told me that he has either given up hope or talked himself out of believing there is such a place. I told him how nobody deserves heaven - we all are guilty of breaking God's law - but that God in his mercy has made a way for even the most guilty of sinners to be forgiven. As I explained about how God has allowed someone else to take the punishment we deserve and has given his own Son to take that punishment, I could see a few "light bulbs" going off in Billy as he began to understand different points. Just the same, without the help of the Holy Spirit, I think he will only remember a few major points - that there is a day of judgment, that he will be found guilty and held accountable, but that there is hope found in Jesus. On the surface, Billy seemed reserved but then again, he had been reserved talking about his favorite pastime - fishing. I trust that more went on during our conversation than I will ever know about in this life.