EDITORS’ NOTE: The following story is part of a monthly Baptist Press series to explore and describe how individuals, churches, associations and conventions exhibit a passion for Christ and His Kingdom.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (BP)–Building a log cabin is something I’ve dreamed about since I was a boy. One day last summer, I thought my dream had arrived when the company I’d ordered the logs from finally called to say the shipment would arrive on an upcoming Monday. But on the Sunday before, I got a phone call from the truck driver. He told me in his gruff Boston accent, “I want you to know I’ll be there at 8:30 in the morning. You got three hours to unload, and I wanna be outta there. If I’m not moving a load, I’m not making money.” He added that I’d be paying him for any time beyond the three hours.
Linda, my wife, was going to take me to the cabin site — an hour or so from our home near Memphis. But because I told my mom that her Sunday school class of senior-aged ladies could have a get-together at our house on Tuesday evening, Linda wanted to stay home that Monday to get ready. She suggested that my dad take me. Somebody would have to take me. I don’t drive. When I was 17, I broke my neck in a water skiing accident and I’ve been in a wheelchair as a quadriplegic since 1980.
My dad was facing surgery the next day for his fourth melanoma, and I really didn’t want to ask him. Besides, I’m sure he also was preoccupied with thoughts of my mom, who 30 days before had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. But Dad readily agreed. When I left the house on Monday morning I told Linda I’d be home around noon. Little did I know.
Dad and I arrived at the construction site well before 8:30. The guy I’d hired to unload the logs with an all-terrain forklift was there by 8:15.
At 9:30 Linda called to say the trucker had a flat tire and would be an hour late. This day wasn’t starting out so good, already going in the hole on an hour’s wages for the forklift driver. It was shaping up to be the “Perfect Storm” on a day I didn’t need to be out of the house.
That’s because at 10 o’clock Linda called back to tell me an auditor was at the front door. She hadn’t made an appointment because she didn’t have to. As an investment consultant, I’m subject to an unannounced audit once a year. Today was the day. Linda put the auditor on the phone, and I told her we had nothing to hide and that she was free to check anything she wanted.
Linda called me again 30 minutes later. She said the log cabin assembly crew I had hired from Pennsylvania was stuck somewhere in Kentucky with transmission trouble and wouldn’t arrive for two more days.
My insides were gnawing. My stomach grew tighter and tighter. The summer heat wasn’t helping either. That’s because when you break your neck, you lose the ability to sweat. So I was getting overheated in more ways than one. In fact, I was sure I was running a fever.
At about 1 p.m., after the logs had arrived more than four hours late, I realized I needed someone with a chain saw because some of the logs were too long to be offloaded at the site.
Looking back, it’s funny to me that the trucker’s Labrador retriever absolutely loved me. But at the time, the dog’s slobber problem made me mad. I couldn’t fend him off, so he made a mess of my nice slacks.
By 3 p.m. the truck was still half-loaded, and I’m counting boxes and checking them off an inventory sheet when I realize I haven’t seen the box numbered one.
The day is just falling apart. That’s when the trucker walked over, pointed to my wheelchair and asked, “How’d you end up in that mess?”
I really wasn’t up for it. As I was contemplating which smart-aleck answer to give him, he walks closer, squats down beside me, and he’s crying. With tears in his says he suggests: “Why don’t you just commit suicide?”
It seemed that time stood still. This day and the trucker’s comments came at a time when I was teaching our Sunday School class about the life of Christ and how He was always on the go while exemplifying the consummate biblical lifestyle.
I had told the class that their Christian faith shouldn’t be a burden no matter what. Whether on the job or on vacation, no matter where you are or what you’re doing, that’s when the abundant life in Christ really takes place. I’d said that if they were waiting for the next Bible conference or meeting, or even next Sunday to practice their Christianity, then they’re just missing out on so much.
Then it hit me harder. All I could hear over and over again were the words, “Kingdom moment. Kingdom moment. Kingdom moment.” I had just begun re-reading “Empowering Kingdom Growth” by Ken Hemphill. And his words, “Kingdom moment” were reverberating in my ears.
That’s when it hit my heart. This was not a time for a smart-aleck answer. It was a Kingdom moment. I figured we’d be on the site for about three more hours, and I was just going to follow this trucker around, and for three hours I’d tell him from the very beginning about how, through one horrific accident, God took an average guy’s train wreck of a life and made it something worthwhile. In fact, I’d tell this guy anything and everything God laid on my heart.
I grew up in the Bible Belt, where some Christians take the truths of God for granted. But the trucker had never heard some of the truths I shared with him. And not only did he not mind my approach, he was open to it and even asked lots of questions the rest of the day.
At some point he asked if we could swap e-mail addresses. And to this day, we are trading e-mails. I’d like to tell you the man has committed his life to Christ. He even admits he needs to do it, and as far as I know he hasn’t. But the e-mails continue, and I continue to pray that he realizes salvation isn’t about being good enough and it doesn’t depend on our own righteousness, but it s in repentance from sin and a profession of faith in Christ. I’m hoping, trusting and praying the he will come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
I don’t remember when I got home that night — between 7 or 8. I rolled through the door to see Linda with a sympathetic look on her face. She didn’t know all the details of my day. But she knew it was hot, expensive and frustrating for me.
“I’m so sorry,” she said.
I looked at her, broke down crying and said, “It was a wonderful, wonderful day.”
Scott Coleman is a member of Kirby Woods Baptist Church in Memphis, Tenn., and an investment consultant in nearby Olive Branch, Miss.