What Will You Do With Your Second Chance?
We seem to live in a very “me” pushed society today. People go by life focusing on their own goals and ambitions so much that we often forget what life is truly about. Our selfish needs and desires blind us to the purpose we serve as Christians and human beings. The following is a fictional story I wrote some years ago. My hope is that it will serve as a reminder to all of us what is truly important in how we rule our lives.
Joel Plumber was your typical pessimist. His glass was always half empty, and some would say his was often empty. As far back as Joel could remember he had been an introvert. He had what you might call friends, but they were really simply casual relationships he had with people at work. His job as a computer programmer seemed to play to his introvert personality in addition. He was able to seclude himself for the greater part of the day in his cubicle without having much contact with anyone. Joel thought that being able to live such a secluded life made him stronger, more independent. It in fact had made him miserable.
He walked by life very bitter and angry, which he thought made him assertive. That part of his personality often rubbed people the wrong way in his life. He once told a co-worker that they were too fat. He thought he was doing them a favor by pointing out their weight problem. Most people tried to avoid Joel. Joel wouldn’t let in to himself that fact, but he often found himself angry when he saw them avoiding him. He would simply blame the other person for being stuck-up, or just rude.
Joel had been raised in a Christian home, and his parents were devout Christians. Joel had went forward when he was ten to accept Christ, but Joel never really bought into the whole “Christian” thing. He mainly went forward because his friends at that time had, and he wanted his parents to leave him alone about it. As Joel grew older he blamed his parents attempts of trying to make him like Christ for his growing away from Christianity. He told them that they were just too pushy, and needed to back off. He believed his parents wanted him to be what he deemed as being a “super-Christian.”
Joel quit attending church when he was 16 years old. His belief was that life was a cruel joke perpetuated by God. God would hang Joel on puppet strings and cause him to do stupid things for God’s entertainment.
Joel didn’t know it however, but today was going to change his life. It would change everything he believed in, and change his heart and attitude in addition.
Beep! Beep! Beep! Smack! “Uhhhh, it can’t already be time to get up,” Joel murmured as he began to wake up.
After fighting the urge to go back to sleep, Joel finally made his way out of bed. He began his morning ritual of taking a shower, getting dressed, and heading downstairs to get his first of many cups of coffee.
“For crying out loud,” Joel exclaimed, “I forgot to turn on the coffee maker! This can not be a good sign of things to come.”
He was already late for work, so he decided he would get a cup of coffee at work. He headed out the door of his apartment, went down the stairs of his building, and went out the front doors. He had no more than turned from closing the door when he heard a voice beside him.
“Got any change?” the man asked.
Joel jerked around to see the man sitting on the sidewalk. The apparent homeless man was wearing a ragged old pair of blue jeans that looked to be two sizes too big for him. His shirt was complete of holes and stained with many different colors. His boots looked as if they were about to fall apart and the soles were loose, which if the man were to walk in them would make a sound like a pair of flip-flops.
Joel thought to himself, “What is this? Man, this guy smells like rotten fish on a hot day!”
The man repeated his question to Joel, “Excuse me sir, do you have any spare change?”
Joel was quite taken back by the man’s request this early in the morning for change. “No, sure don’t there buddy,” Joel said with a bit of sarcasm. Joel thought to himself, “Get a job man! I just don’t understand why anyone would want to live life like that.”
Joel finally made it to his means, and got in. He backed out of his parking space and started toward his job. Before he could already make it to the end of the road he lived on he spied a man standing at the approaching red light with a bucket in hand. It appeared that the man was asking for money from those passing by. The man turned in the roadway and stared right at Joel, who was heading in his direction.
“You have got to be kidding me!” Joel thought. “I surprise what this guy is wanting money for?”
Joel thought about just running the light which had now turned red, but thought better of it when he remembered a speeding ticket he had not however paid. He tried to ease up to the light in such a fact that would allow him to reach the light and the man just as the light turned green, but the light seemed to be stuck on red. He was forced to stop right beside the man.
Joel thought that if he didn’t look at the man, perhaps the man would not talk to him. But the man came to Joel’s closed window and tapped on it. Joel grunted, and lowered his window just enough to hear what the man had to say.
“How are you this morning?” the man asked.
“Fine and you?” Joel replied, now wondering how long a light could truly stay on red.
“I am doing wonderful sir,” the man replied. “I am taking money for the local battered women’s shelter, and was wondering if you could spare some money for a wonderful cause?”
Joel smirked at the fellow, and then shook his head emphatically no! Right at that moment the light turned green and Joel just about ran over the man’s foot as he sped off. Joel thought to himself, “I can not wait to see what happens next!”
No sooner had Joel thought those words and rounded the next curve, that he approached a newer form Cadillac on the side of the road. It was apparent that the car had wrecked and Joel noticed someone in the car as he got closer. He slowed just enough to be able to see an older lady rubbing her neck in the driver’s seat of the Cadillac. He thought to himself, “Oh poor pitiful high lady done went and dinged up her beloved Caddy.” He hesitated for half a second about stopping to help the lady and then thought, “Ahh, someone will come by and help her. She is high enough to get good medical help and a new Caddy on top of that, and I am late for work and need my money.”
Joel glanced at the clock on the dash of his car and noticed that all the run-ins had cost him time, and he was now really late for work. He pushed the gas pedal down a little further and entered the next curve in the wrong lane, trying to compensate for his speed. As he rounded the curve he met a dump truck head on. He didn’t already have time to see the truck, much less react to it.
Everything suddenly went white. Within seconds Joel felt as though he was conscious, but he could not see anything but a white light that was completely blinding him. He also noticed that he was unable to feel anything. Joel closest thought to himself, “Am I dead?” It was at that moment that he heard an threatening voice from beyond the glaring white light say, “Yes, you are deceased Joel Plumber.”
Joel had been quite frightened up until this point, but once he heard the voice he felt a unexplainable calm come over him.
Joel asked, “Well, if I am dead, then where am I?”
“You are at the gates of heaven Joel Plumber,” the voice replied. “You are about to find out if your name is written in the Book of Life.”
Joel remembered back to when he went down the aisle and told the preacher that he accepted Christ as Lord and Savior. With that memory Joel told the voice, “Well I know that I am in the Book because I told that preacher guy that I accepted Christ a long time ago.”
The voice replied, “It is not enough to simply say the words Joel Plumber, you must believe them in your heart. You must be born again, a new person.”
Joel began thinking back to all of what he had learned in church and his mind became flooded with memories of Sunday School teachers, pastors, his parents telling him just that. Joel shouted out, “But I lived a good life. I average I didn’t kill anyone, or anything like that. I never hurt anyone. I should get into heaven because of that, shouldn’t I?”
The voice replied, “It is not of works that saves you Joel Plumber, but that of faith in Jesus Christ and what He has done for you.”
Joel then noticed the bright light faint, and he was taken back to his house when he was a youth. He saw himself telling his parents to back off from talking to him about Christ. He screamed at them that he hated them for what they had done to him because of all the things they tried to teach him about Christ. He then felt his parents hurt and pain over his rejection of not only them, but more importantly his rejection to hearing about Christ and how Joel should live his life for Him. He saw his parents on their knees night after night in tears praying for Joel and that God would touch his life in a special way. He felt the desperation in their prayers, their concern, and their pain. He began to weep as he watched his mother struggle to get off the floor after having prayed for him so long.
Joel then was taken to his office. He saw the man that he had told that he was over-weight, and watched as went back to his cubicle after their conversation and cried silently as he worked. Joel could feel the embarrassment the man felt over his weight. He could feel the man’s pain of knowing that he was over-weight and his distress over how Joel’s comments had made him feel. He then saw a young boy in a school gym being harassed by other boys because of his weight. They were calling him many different names and pointing at him as they all laughed at him. Joel then saw the young boy sitting in his room sobbing in his mother’s arms because of the pain that the other kids had caused him. Joel was now sobbing uncontrollably.
The intense white light returned and the voice then said, “You also passed Christ three times this morning Joel Plumber. Why should Jesus not pass you?”
Joel asked, “When did I pass Christ?”
Joel thought back to the morning events and remembered seeing the homeless guy, the guy with the bucket, and the older lady in the Cadillac, but could not remember seeing anyone that looked like Christ. Joel answered, “When did I turn my back on Christ?”
The voice replied, “When you passed the homeless man at your doorway. When you passed the man with the bucket, and when you passed the older lady in the Cadillac Joel Plumber.”
Joel exclaimed, “They weren’t Jesus. They were ordinary people. Christ is like angelic or something. He has a halo on His head, right? Besides, those people didn’t need my help. The first guy was just some guy who wouldn’t work. The next guy was some scam artist, and the old lady had more money than God Himself probably. What could I have done?”
It was at that moment that the bright white light dissipated and Joel was taken back in time. The first vision he encountered was of the homeless man. Joel closest felt the extreme hunger and grief of the homeless man. He saw that the man lived under a bridge most nights, and Joel felt the bitter cold of the wintry nights the man had spent under the bridge. Joel was then taken back to a different time in the homeless man’s life. The man was dressed in a very expensive suit and Joel could tell that the man was very successful. The man was leaving his home, and as he left he kissed his wife and young son good-bye as he left for work. Joel then saw the man in tears as he sat behind a very large desk. Joel was able to feel the man’s desperation and distress. The man had been set up by his partner in a very large scam. The partner had lost everything that both men had, and the man faced prison time for something he had nothing to do with. Joel then saw the man in prison. The man was sitting across from his wife in a visitation cell, and the man was once again in tears. The wife had just told her husband that she was leaving him, and that she did not want him to have anything to do with their son. She had taken out court papers to keep him from doing so. He felt the man’s pain of losing his wife and son, and Joel wept like a small child.
Joel then saw the man leaving prison and saw that he could not find a job because of his prison record. Joel never imagined that this could all happen in the United States. Joel was then taken back to the bridge where the man was sleeping under card board boxes.
The next image Joel saw was of the man standing with the bucket. He was closest taken to the house where he saw a young woman and young child bound in chairs. Joel felt helpless that he could not help the two get loose from their bondage. At that moment Joel smelled what he knew to be gasoline. He saw a man he did not know go into the room with a gas can in his hand, and proceed to douse the mother and child in the gasoline. He then watched as the man dropped a match and ignited the complete room that the two were in bound to their chairs. Joel could feel the intense heat, and could feel the sensation of the fire burning his skin. Joel cried out in pain over the burning, in addition as for the two bound in the chairs.
Then Joel saw a graveside, where the man with the bucket stood looking down at two graves. The man was the father of the young woman, and grandfather of the small child. Joel could feel the man’s pain of loss, and his grief over not being able to save two people he loved so dearly. Joel began sobbing once again, and watched as the man turned and walked away. Joel then saw the man working in a battered woman’s shelter, and it was the shelter that the man was seeking money for that morning.
Joel then saw the elderly lady in the car. He was then taken back to earlier in the day to the older lady sitting at her dining room table. She was looking at all of her bills, and Joel could feel her helplessness. Her house was run down and did not look like a house that a woman that drove a new Cadillac would ever live in. Joel then saw the woman taking the keys for the car from a friend, because her car had broke down. As Joel was taken back to the house of the lady he noticed the letter that she was reading. The letter was from a mortgage company, and they were threatening to take her home within thirty days if she did come up with two thousand dollars. She was on her way to the mortgage company that morning to try and work something out with them when she went into the curve to fast and wrecked her friend’s car. Joel could feel the pain in the woman’s neck, and could feel her desperation as cars continued to pass her by as she sat on the side of the road. It was an hour later when she finally received help. Joel was on his knees at this point, with his head in his hands sobbing. He couldn’t believe how wrong he had been.
As Joel began to gain his composure enough to speak once again, he said to the voice, “already though I was wrong about the people I passed by this morning, you said I passed Christ by. None of these people were Him.”
The light shone once again, blinding Joel, and the voice replied, “These people all knew Christ as Lord and Savior Joel Plumber. This method that Christ resided within each one of them. When you passed them by, you passed by Christ in addition.”
“How could I have known that?” Joel asked. “How can anyone know who is a Christian, and who isn’t?”
The voice replied, “Christ loves all, and so should the Christian. Christ came to serve, not to be served. This is why when one becomes a Christian, Joel Plumber, they pass no one by. They do as Jesus did, and meet people at their need.”
Joel began to weep once again, and cried out to the threatening voice, “Please, let me have one more chance! I potential I will not pass another person by!”
It was at that moment that Joel heard another voice that he did not recognize. “Sir, if you will work with us you will get your second chance.”
Joel was shocked. As he forced his eyes open he could see the broken windshield of his car, and could feel pain throughout his complete body. Was he really back? Was he really getting a second chance?
Joel thought closest about the older lady that had wrecked before him. He asked the man outside of his means, “How is the older lady that wrecked up the road?”
The EMS worker answered, “Sir, as far as I know you are the only person that has wrecked on this road today.”
It was at that point that Joel felt someone gently touch his shoulder. Joel asked the EMS worker, “Are getting ready to pull me out now?”
The EMS worker replied, “No sir, I am nevertheless working on your door so that I can get to you.”
Joel then heard the threatening voice once again, “Joel Plumber, Christ did not treat you average because He loves you. Christ did not pass you by because He came to save you. So, Joel Plumber, what will you do with your second chance?”