…And the Question That He Asked
For 32 years a retired pastor of a community church had taken his cars and now a truck with more than 200,000 miles on it to the mechanic tucked away in a small town.
The mechanic’s story was intriguing. In the old days, he had run a chop shop for the mob in the big city. That’s a place where stolen automobiles are stripped of salable parts.
Something happened that put his life in danger so he packed up his family and moved to a rural area in the next state where he quietly built an auto mechanic business. He was a bit gruff, and those who got to know him and some of his story knew that he carried a sidearm.
On this day, it was obvious that he was facing serious health problems. It took considerable time for him to walk the few steps from the garage to his office where he sat down on the chair behind the desk.
The conversation found its way to the subject of God and heaven. He questioned whether or not there would be a place in heaven for someone like him who had done terrible things in his life.
The pastor responded that he thought there was room in heaven for all of us. That’s why Jesus said that he was going to heaven to be with God and the Holy Spirit; that we all had our list of terrible things in life, including pastors.
The mechanic thought for a moment, said that he understood, and sat contemplative at his desk as the pastor drove away in his pick-up truck.
Two hours later, the pastor got a call. The mechanic was found slumped over at his desk. He had passed away and most likely his last conversation was the one with the pastor where he asked his last question in life — whether or not there was a place for him in heaven given all of the terrible things he had done.
This account of the mechanic’s last conversation offers at least two deliberations.
First, it is tempting to make the story all about the mechanic and wonder if he had what Christians call a “deathbed conversion”, that moment when people feel the end is near and clarify or embrace a belief that ensures passage to heaven in the afterlife.
Some Christians are OK with this phenomenon, as long as one repeats certain words and follows a certain formula. Some Christians are not OK with deathbed conversions, believing that a life of “terrible things” cannot be erased as you walk through…