Fairfield is the only incorporated town in Camas County, Idaho where I grew up. Two miles north of Fairfield is a used-to-be-a-town location called Soldier. When I was still a boy there was an old man living in Soldier who went by the name of Charlie Bailey. At the time of this story Charlie was quite elderly and was reaching the point of not being able to take care of himself.
My mother was helping see to it that "Old Charlie" had the basics of life taken care of. I would sometimes ride with her, sitting in the car while she dropped off meals or some other such thing. (As a 12-year-old boy I didn't exactly pay much attention to what she was doing.) Somewhere along the line Mom got the bright idea that "Johnny" would "like" to spend time with Old Charlie playing checkers. Now my mother was an interesting person. Anyone who knew her understands that one generally did not say no to her. This is why it wasn't long before I found myself sitting at Charlie's table playing checkers, trying to make conversation with an old man I didn't know. As uncomfortable it must have been for my twelve year old self, it was a good thing to do. I’m sure I grew both spiritually and in character from the experience. However, to be honest, I only remember one of the conversations Charlie and I had during those visits. The rest of my memories of those sessions consists of dim impressions of a cluttered, dirty house that smelled bad. (Charlie's bathroom consisted of a "honey bucket" sitting in the corner and undoubtedly was the source of much of that smell.) That one remembered conversation is the real subject of this post. Jesus always has been -- and was then -- the central focus of my life, so it isn't odd that I ended up talking to Old Charlie about Him. Again, my memory is dim, but I must have talked about Jesus' love for us and His offer of salvation. What I do remember very clearly is Charlie's response. He told me that he had done too many bad things in his life and that he could never be forgiven for them. In retrospect I can see how Charlie may have just been putting me off. Then again, he may really have felt that way. Of course, I didn't really have a good response at the time, but later in the week I came across Psalms 30:5 “For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life…” The next time Charlie and I sat down to checkers I shared that verse with Charlie, explaining to him how God doesn't stay angry, but is willing to forgive. No, Charlie didn't pray to receive Jesus that day. I really don't know the outcome of that witness or where Charlie ended up when he entered eternity, but for me it was a significant step in my growing up and growing in Christ.
What made me think about this event was when I read Isaiah 57:16 this morning during my daily quiet time. "For I will not contend forever, nor will I always be angry…” It really is saying the same thing as Psalms 30:5. No matter how bad we are or how much evil we do in our lives, God's anger towards us over those things doesn't last. His mercy always trumps His anger and we can always come to Him with boldness because Jesus took care of our sin.
“Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us…let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water."