I MET THE THIEF ON THE CROSS...
One of the things I love most about police work is what I call the "unpredictability factor." In the world of law enforcement, one never knows what he will encounter. Only one thing remains certain in the world of the police: nothing is certain.
Added to that is the bonus of being a man of faith, a follower of Christ. Jesus is my "sweet and low" that makes life taste better. Living before Him in all the matters of my police work makes life wild and adventurous. You simply never know where He will send you.
Such was the case the night the Gables called 911...
John Gables was on his last few breaths. The disease that ravaged his body was almost complete. Mr Gables would slip into eternity at any moment. He lay on his bed writhing in pain, knowing his life was over.
But he had a greater fear than his pain. He knew full well that he was about to pass to the "other side" - and he wasn't ready. He was terrified of what might be waiting for him.
He wanted to speak to a preacher, but had no idea how he might find one this late at night.
His wife of many years, Elizabeth, sat with him. It tore her heart to watch him in such misery in his final minutes.
But God is a merciful God. He is not willing, the scripture says, that any should perish, but that all might come to repentance. In His mercy He planted an idea in John's heart that would affect him for all eternity...
"Elizabeth, get on the phone and call the police. Tell them to have a chaplain come to our house."
Elizabeth reached for the phone. She simply requested that the chaplain be sent to her house. "Ma'am," the dispatcher explained, "we don't have a chaplain available. Is it okay if I send you an officer who is also a preacher?"
"Yes, of course."
The dispatcher knew that I was the "preacher cop." As soon as the phone call was completed, I was sent to the scene, told only that the reporting party "wanted a preacher."
I was invited in and saw Mr Gables lying on his bed in a room adjacent to the den. It was immediately apparent that he was slipping fast. I knew that a preacher had been asked for, but I had no idea what was going on. Truth is, I was on holy ground, and just didn't realize it…
Mr Gables slowly lifted his head and spoke with a worn out voice…
"Are you a preacher….?"
I was still confused as to what was going on, but I'd been on stranger calls.
"Yes sir, I'm a cop and a preacher. What can I do for you sir?"
He was straight and to the point. Time was, to say the least, of the essence.
"I'm a dying man, officer. I could go at any moment. But I am not - I am not ready to meet my Maker. CAN YOU HELP ME…?"
I stood there staring at him. The moment was holy. If ever I had been involved in a "divine appointment..."
"Yes sir, I can help you," I boldly responded.
"Then please do so, officer. There's not much time…"
It would dawn on me later what a battle must have been raging in this room. If my eyes had been opened, I would have seen Demons fighting to finish him off, and then drag him into hell. But I would have also seen the Angels of God pumping air into his dying lungs, just long enough to get his name written into the Lamb's Book of Life…
"Pray with me sir," I pleaded.
If I recall correctly, I took hold of the old man's hand. His body was trembling, and there were only a few puffs of air left inside him. We prayed together, his voice shaking as he cried out to his Maker…
"Dear God, I am a sinner. I have sinned against you. But I ask you now to come into my heart. I cannot save myself. Jesus - save me! Lord Jesus, you paid the price for my sins. You died on the cross. You rose from the dead. YOU ARE THE LORD…"
Mr Gables prayed along with me. He made his peace with God - his Maker. A calm assurance came over him. The battle was over. His "Maker" was now his "Father."
I spent a few more minutes with him and then headed off to the next call. I was shocked at what I had just seen. I worshipped the Lord for His loving kindness, for His willingness to lead us. I was stunned by the whole thing.
Looking back I do have one regret. I wish I had paid more attention to the bushes outside the Gables' home. Surely one of them was burning…