She was a friend. A very kind woman who always was willing to listen and just talk whenever I came by. It didn’t matter that I was a little kid and she was in her 60s. It didn’t matter that I was a teenager and she was in her 70s. It didn’t matter that I was now grown up with a family and she was in her 80s. Mrs. Smothers, the woman who lived next door to my parents, was always happy to see me.
I mowed her yard on occasion. When the snow came, I always shoveled her walk (and she’d always give me a couple 50-cent pieces for my trouble). When I got a drum set and banged horribly around on it, she complimented my ability to keep a steady beat. When she was on her porch, she always invited me to come over and just talk. But we moved ten years ago, and the visits with Mrs. Smothers became very few and very far between.
We have been traveling the past couple weeks, and we stopped in Illinois to visit my parents. But along the way there, Mrs. Smothers entered my thoughts. I realized as we were heading that way that though we’d talked before about religion in general (mostly about the fact that I was going to be a preacher), I’d never talked with her seriously about her soul.
So, I made up my mind before we ever arrived that I was going to talk to Mrs. Smothers about her soul, about Jesus, and about eternity. I had prayed for God to allow her a receptive heart to hear the truth and at the very least to consider it. But shortly after arriving, I asked my mother about her, and this was the reply: “Oh, didn’t I tell you? She passed away.” Mrs. Smothers was gone.
And I never tried to reach her with the gospel.
I had made up my mind to do so, but by then it was too late. To say I am sad is an understatement. I am so upset with myself over it. I am incredibly tormented knowing that she died having never obeyed the gospel.
At this point, there are voices coming at me, saying Brad, you haven’t lived in Illinois for a decade, as though that’s some kind of excuse. Or Brad, there are plenty of other Christians that live in the same town she does and none of them talked to her about it either. It doesn’t matter what someone else did or didn’t do. The fact is, I had the opportunity many times over throughout the years to talk to her about it, yet I never did.
I know that the Bible teaches each person will be judged based on his or her own works. So Mrs. Smothers will stand before the judgment seat of Christ to answer for her own actions. But God only knows what a word from me–a serious attempt to show her the gospel–would have done. It’s possible that she would have been willing to listen, become a Christian, and serve God faithfully the rest of her days. It’s possible that as a result, other members of her family might have been converted to Christ as well.
But none of that happened, because I never took the time to talk to her about Jesus Christ. I bear the blame myself, because I did not act when I had the opportunity. And I ask myself What have I done?
Then the words of the song echo painfully in my mind.
When in a better land,
before the bar we stand,
How deeply grieved our souls will be,
If some poor lost one there,
Should cry in deep despair,
You never mentioned Him to me.
You never mentioned Him to me,
You helped me not the light to see
You met me day by day,
And knew I was astray,
Yet never mentioned Him to me.
I know she can’t read this now, but the only thing I can say is:
I’m so sorry, Mrs. Smothers.
And I don’t want that to ever happen again.
-Bradley S. Cobb