Hard-headed, hard-hearted – that’s how they grow them in Ventura. I wanted to shake the dust off my feet and call down fire from heaven. Or worse still, just plain give up. But I couldn’t. I was on a mission…
While at a Foursquare leadership conference and full of the Holy Spirit and power, I knew that God would knock ’em dead for His kingdom. People would clamor to be saved when confronted with the Law of God, the coming judgment and the eternal reality of hell. Why then did the checker at Vons want to argue with me?
“Hell in Jewish thinking was just the grave,” she explained. “It’s the place where everyone went when they died. There was no hope of a resurrection. I want to go to hell.”
The sandwich guy at Subway answered, “In-between,” when I asked where he would go when he died. I politely explained that there was no “in-between”; Jesus only talked about heaven and hell. He looked at me vacantly and lost interest.
The bellboy at the Marriot didn’t care either.
All alone, I sipped a Vente-drip at a table outside Starbucks silently asking the Lord for someone to whom I could give the good news when I heard a burst of cackling a few tables over. Two obnoxiously loud, world-weary women in their fifties and a bratty ten-year-old were sharing profanity-laden tales of the ribald. One said, “YEAH, AND I JUST INHERITED TEN MILLION DOLLARS!!! YEE-HAH, HAH, HAH, HAH!!!”
Oh no. Here was my opportunity. I sauntered over, forced a smile on my face and sputtered, “I just heard that you inherited ten million dollars.” I pulled out my ever trusty million dollar bill and handed it to them. “Here’s another million to add to your fortune.”
“YEE-HAH, HAH, HAH, HAH!” they laughed in their hoarse, smoky, Lucille-Ball-at-the-end-of-her-career voices. The kid flipped her stringy blonde hair in the air and danced atop her chair like some crazed dervish.
“I have to ask you the million dollar question,” I said nervously.
“WHAT’S THAT, HON?”
They admitted to breaking God’s law. I told them they were accountable and He would judge them for their sin someday. The ten-year-old grabbed a dove out of the air and bit its head off, I think.
“ARE YA SINGLE, HON?”
I showed her my wedding ring and stated that I was happily married. “So, does this concern you at all, that you will spend all eternity in hell because of your sins?”
Something remarkable happened, strange and unwarranted. Time stood still. I stood still. It was a Matrix moment. Rudely, the two haggard ladies completely changed the subject and started talking to each other as if I wasn’t there. Pastor Steve the lightpole. A big red idiot.
With incredible perception I asked, “You aren’t interested in this at all are you?”
They said no and continued to gossip without missing a beat. I was afraid to leave because I knew that I would be the butt of behind-the-back-mockery. The Bad News Bear contorted her small dirty face into a grimace and ignored me too. Slowly, I skulked away.
“No atheists within fifteen feet!” they scoffed. “YEE-HAH-HAH-HAH-HAH!”
Out of the corner of my eye I saw the little girl’s head spin around and catch a fly with