I have a friend. We’ll call him Calvin; mostly because of my affinity for the comic strip “Calvin and Hobbs,” but also because this man reminds me a bit of that strip’s main character, Calvin. In the comic strip, Calvin’s favorite game is “Calvin Ball” where Calvin continually irritates Hobbs by constantly changing the rules just in time for the outcome to always be favorable for Calvin.
That, indeed, reminds me of my friend and many of our discussions. My “Calvin” is a master at introducing straw men and distraction to constantly divert any conversation that is coming close to expressing my point of view to a new and totally different direction and topic. This he does, I am convinced, not only to irritate me (which he thoroughly enjoys) but also to avoid any possibility of the conversation becoming unfavorable to his point of view . . . much like “Calvin Ball!” He doesn’t even have to believe the argument opposite mine, he just enjoys being contrary . . . and HATES to lose!
I am a Christian Pastor and he has assured me many times that he doesn’t hold my vocation against me. His wife is also a Christian. He has expressed his position to me, her and others alternately as atheist or agnostic. He tells us that he respects our devotion to our principles, even as he finds them unconvincing to himself . . . and we tell him that we love him and continue to pray for him. I have even gone so far as to tell him of my “selfish desire” to not finally get to heaven and find him NOT there.
Over the years we have had many conversations where I have attempted to share God’s love and grace with him, which he has always managed to torpedo just when I thought I was getting somewhere. CALVINBALL! His wife has spent many more years with him, faithfully praying and sharing (when she can get a word in edgewise).
Then, a couple of months ago, his life and his story took a torpedo of its own. One weekend while up here alone, preparing his cabin for winter, he had a stroke. Down he went, hard on the floor of his cabin. His whole left side was paralyzed. He would spend several freezing hours on that floor before he could finally drag himself to the phone to call for help. To make matters worse, a couple of armed thugs broke into his house and started tearing it apart, all the while keeping a weapon trained on him; on the floor and helpless. After completely ransacking the house looking for valuables they discussed his fate as a witness who could identify them and decided to put him out of their misery. They were going to execute him.
“I’m going to die!” Calvin thought. “If I die without trusting in Jesus, my wife is going to KILL ME!” So right then and right there Calvin prayed. “Dear Jesus, I DO trust you! My wife was right about you. Please take me to be with you so I can see her again.”
Then Calvin addressed the home invaders, “After you kill me, please call my wife and tell her that I’ve asked Jesus to help me . . . and that I will see her again.”
The intruders ran out the door. Calvin found the phone cord and pulled it off the shelf, crashing to the floor, and called 911 to report an armed home invasion. The paramedics arrived first, but waited for another friend of mine, Deputy P. to arrive and clear the house. Finally, Calvin received first aid, and was medivacked to the hospital in the valley.
Meanwhile, Deputy P. found no evidence of a break-in, even though the living room was completely torn apart. Neither did he find any fleeing intruders.
It turns out, that part of the story is, in fact, untrue. There really were no invaders, and no execution threat to Calvin. Because of the area of the brain that stroked, Calvin had some extremely “real” hallucinations. To this day, he will tell you that they are recorded in the “REAL memories” part of his brain. The memories remain “real” and permanent to him, even though he now knows they aren’t.
But the rest remains very “real”. Calvin’s life was, indeed, in mortal danger. He came very close to dying . . . dying without an anchor in eternal life through a Jesus who loves him enough to die in his place. His “deathbed confession” of faith was also very real. He really DID trust Jesus to help him. What was also very real were all the prayers and sharing of the truth of God’s love in Jesus the Christ by his wife, me, and others through the years. Turns out he was listening . . . even if he didn’t want to “hear” for a while.
When I got down to the hospital to see him, his wife came to me and, smiling, told me that Calvin had a surprise for me. I went over to the bed, and he said, “Guess what. . . . . . I’m a Christian!”
That is one argument I think I’m going to let him win . . . with lots of conversation to come!
I will say that God “is patient, not wanting anyone to perish, but all to come to repentance”, and that He can pull you into eternal life with Him, even at the last moment of your life (as He did with one of the thieves on a cross next to him, saying, “TODAY you will be with me in Paradise”). . . BUT, it is a dangerous game to play with your eternal future by waiting until the last moment to begin to consider His Word of truth and love. What if you wait too long?
“Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; (Isaiah 55:6)
For [God] says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. (2 Corinthians 6:2)
Rev. Nick Wirtz is pastor of Faith Lutheran Church at 2750 Mogollon Dr. in Overgaard, AZ and can be reached at (323) 717-4390. Pastor Nick resides in Overgaard with his wife Patricia. He has spent over 20 years as a pastor in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod with most of that time spent in bi-lingual (English-Spanish) ministry. He also serves on the board of the local Salvation Army as an advisor, and as Chaplain for Post 86 American Legion Riders. He’s also known to be seen pickin’ a little guitar around town from time to time.