Kenneth does not go to my church, in fact, as far as I know, Kenneth has never been to church. For most of his life, Kenneth has been agnostic and one might even argue that he was very anti-Christian. I had come to know Kenneth three years ago while visiting a friend at the hospital. As I was about to leave, a doctor stopped me in the hallway, "Are you a pastor? I heard you speaking to your friend. Sorry, I did not mean to, but I was checking on a patient in the bed to your right. I have a patient here who have been asking to speak to a pastor but our regular chaplain is on vacation and he had issues with the last two pastors." Before I could answer, he continued with an edge of desperation in his voice, "He is dying, we do not give him much more than a few months. Please, I am a physician and even though I am Christian, I am not equipped to answer his questions."
There are times when God puts you in situations where your only answer is yes, so thus began a 3 year relationship with Kenneth. I remember my first encounter with this intelligent, articulate, enigmatic, and complex man. When the doctor ushered me into Kenneth's private room, I found a gaunt man wracked by his sickness whose inner strength is betrayed by his powerful, defiant, and deeply piercing eyes. He was surrounded by piles of books among which were at least three translations of the Bible. The first words he uttered after I was introduced were, "Pleased to meet you but forgive me if I am a bit blunt. If you are here to give me religious platitudes and tell me that I am a sinner and that God loves me, please save the both of us some time. I am sure the good doctor here has filled you in, I don't have much of it left. Also, please spare me your sympathy, I do not need it nor do I want it." As he spoke, I could sense the doctor next to me cringe, regretting that he had put me into an unpleasant situation. In my own mind, I was furiously praying to God and wondering what I had gotten myself into. Time, however did not permit me the luxury of waiting for God's answer, I could not just stand there silently without response. There are times in my ministry that I am not given that luxury and the only thing I can do is to act and trust the God will be there to guide me and guard my words and actions, so I smiled and said, "Please to meet you as well. No, I am not here to preach to you. It is my understanding that you have questions, the doctor here seems to think that I may be of help, so I will do my best." Kenneth grinned and responded, "Great! Prove to me that there is a God and why I should believe in Him."
What that introduction, we began our relationship, one that would last through one remission, a return of the disease, months of chemo, and finally palliative care. There were heated words, laughter, tears, moments of incredible joy and moments of incredible sorrow. Our discussions ranged from the Old and New Testament, the Quran, and the Sutras, from Socrates, to Augustine, to Nietzsche, Marx, Kant, Sarte, Heidegger, Foucault, and Chomsky. Often, I would have to defer my responses to read and study before I could reply. Through it all, Kenneth and I became close friends and I came to know him as well as any man can know another.
On Boxing Day this year, Kenneth accepted Jesus as the Lord and Savior of his life. It had been a long journey, and for me, a blessed one. Kenneth challenged my faith, he refused to accept simple answers. He was well read, and extremely articulate. His knowledge of the Bible would put many Christians to shame. He was just as adept at the writings of other religions and philosophers. Kenneth's faith did not come easily to him, but when it came, it was unshakeable and unstoppable. Ultimately, it was not the force of my arguments, nor was it the soundness of my logic, nor was it the power of my intellect, that brought Kenneth to Christ. It was the Holy Spirit working in him. I can attest to this with certainty because a few days prior to Kenneth's 'conversion', he said, "I do not understand what is going on, but I think I believe. My mind is not yet entirely convinced but there is this irrational certainty. Maybe it is my proximity to death that is causing me this irrational madness but I have been close to death many times before and I have never had this problem. In spite of my mind's rebellion, there is a strange comfort. Is this what you mean by the 'conviction of the Holy Spirit'?"
Late last night, when I got a call to go to the hospital, Kenneth paid me the highest compliment that he could pay anyone, he asked for "his pastor". We spent his last hours talking and when he got too tired to speak, I held his hand as he drifted in and out of consciousness.
I write this blog to tell us that we have a great and wondrous, loving God who is patient with us. The doctors gave Kenneth only 6 months to live 5 years ago. As sure as I am of anything in this life, I am certain that God, by His grace and sustaining power gave Kenneth enough time to come to Him.
|8 But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. 2Peter 3:8-9 NKJV|
In His love,