It was another time and another place. I was just new to the ministry. One of the people that I began visiting regularly was a woman in her early sixties. She had never married and had very little family to speak of.
We would visit and have coffee and poppy seed bread. Alice made the best poppy seed bread in town and often I got to take a loaf or two home with me. Alice would also show me the latest craft she was working on, and frequently I got to take that home, too. Soon I had a house full of embroidered fly swatter covers, embroidered door handle covers that said “Noel”, embroidered snow flakes for the windows. Alice loved to embroider things.
And she loved to talk. Alice and I could talk about anything and everything. Our time together would fly by quickly. Afterwards, I would end the visit with Scripture reading and a prayer, thinking I had done my pastoral duty.
I came home from a meeting one night and returned to my study. I had visited Alice for most of the afternoon and I needed to burn some midnight oil to catch up on my sermon preparation.
I wasn’t there long and I heard a knock on the door. It was Alice’s nephew. “I don’t mean to disturb you so late,” he said, “but can you come? Alice has passed away.”
I remember thinking then, and I think about it often: we had talked about everything, Alice and I. We had talked about the people in town, the weather, even passages in the Bible. But I could not remember ever pressing upon her the claims of Christ and her need for salvation. I just assumed she knew.
How I had failed to be Alice’s pastor! Certainly, I had gone through the motions - faithfully visiting, reading and praying with her. But I had never told her about the most important thing in life and death - her need for Christ. I don’t doubt that Alice is in glory. If ever there was a precious lamb in the Lord’s fold, it was her. But as her minister, it was something that we should have talked about.
As I think about Alice, I can’t help but think of how often we as Christians just go through the motions. We faithfully do our Christian duty. We can defend the faith with great vigor. But do we really know how to apply it? Do we really know the most important thing of all? Or do we just assume salvation?
Rev. Wybren Oord is the pastor of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan and editor of The Outlook.