Uncle Bobby never married. His life was simple: his little terrier Tammy, and his walks – often long distances. And he liked to smoke. Since he was a teen, he smoked. For years, he lived in Washington, DC, but after retirement came to live with us. His parents had been saved after they came from Scotland. Bobby’s two sisters had been saved for years and his brother had been saved later in life. His sister, Nettie (my mother) was the closest to Bobby; her love brought him to live with our family. He ate with us and was a regular part of our family. Mom had only two house rules for Bobby: he was not allowed to smoke in the house, and he had to come to Sunday night gospel meetings, unless he was sick.
Bobby’s father had died when my Mom was young, but his mother, Annie Lindsay, the matriarch of the family, also lived with us for years. Known to almost everyone as Nannie, she was a delightful little saint, who faithfully prayed for Bobby day after day. Her memory failed as she entered her nineties, and she lived her last years in the Home at Longport, NJ. While she forgot many things, she never forgot her salvation. My brother Alan and I had the rotating responsibility of driving Bobby to hear the gospel. For the most part, he listened respectfully, but when the clock struck 8:30, he began to squirm, then clear his throat with increasing volume, and finally unwrap peppermints with great flourish. If the speaker went ten minutes over, it was unbearable. Occasionally, we tried to talk with him about the meeting as we drove home, but he said little; however, one Sunday night, his “overtime routine” was positively embarrassing. On the way home, I said “Bobby, why do you have to act that way, just because of a few extra minutes?” He said “Lin, the man should have stopped when the meeting was over. He had no business going over so long!” I’m not sure why my response was so pointed, but its effect on Bobby was incredible. I said “Bobby, did you ever stop to think that there won’t be any clocks on the walls of hell?” He recoiled, swallowed hard, and stared straight ahead for the rest of the ride.
At 76, Bobby’s smoking finally caught up to him. A medical checkup indicated a terminal diagnosis. His large mass of lung cancer had already spread. Surgery, chemo, or radiation would accomplish nothing. We prepared for the end. Mom and Dad asked if I would take the funeral. Immediately, I refused. Knowing he had no hope, how could I possibly speak at the funeral of an uncle to whom Alan and I had grown quite attached? Bobby weakened steadily. Mom faithfully prepared his meals, took them to him on a tray, then went back to retrieve the dishes and tray. We often visited with him and talked about eternity and the need of his soul; but there was just no response.
One day, Mom took his lunch tray to him. She helped him sit up on the edge of the bed, arranged his tray table, gave thanks for his meal, and headed up the stairs. Before she had reached the top step, she heard a loud crash. Hurrying back down, she found the glass smashed on the floor. Milk was everywhere and Bobby was sobbing. She sat beside him on the bed, put her arms around him, and said “Bobby, don’t worry, it was only a glass of milk; I’ll have it cleaned up in no time!” Bobby said, through his tears, “Jeanette, it’s not the glass; I couldn’t even hold it. I’m getting weaker every day. I’m going to die. I’ll never see Dad, I’ll never see Heaven, I’ll never see Jesus!”
Realizing that she had just come to the crossroads for which she and others had so often prayed, Mom’s heart poured out the simple and glorious gospel. When she got to the cross, and reminded Bobby that Christ had loved him so much that He had gone there to bear sin, Bobby looked at her and said, “You mean that after all these years, He still loves me, and He will still forgive me?”
Mom quickly assured him of God’s continued offer of grace through the cross. All at once, Bobby lifted his head, and said “Jeanette, I just took Him as my Savior, and He took me in!” The weight of years of hoping against hope, praying against all odds, pleading times without number, overwhelmed Mom, and she wept with Bob, their arms around each other.
He lived for two more months. He regularly received the Christians from the Bryn Mawr assembly when they came to visit. Over and over, in his profoundly simple way, he told anyone who would listen, “I took Jesus as my Savior, and He took me in!” Many recognized the amazing change in him, although he was failing quickly. He had a confident joy, until the day the Lord relieved him of his suffering. The offer to speak at his funeral became an enormous privilege, saturated with the joy of God’s overwhelming grace. Most touching, however, was the response from little Nannie. When the news reached her room at Longport, the messenger said, “Nannie, we have some good news. Guess who got saved?” Without hesitation, her mind, so ravaged by forgetfulness, locked onto its one unshakeable anchor. Immediately she looked up with a little smile and said, “Bobby. I always knew he’d get saved. I always knew the Lord would save him.”
Profound stuff, this. How many Scriptures come to mind! “God is faithful” (1Co 10:13). He is “longsuffering (2 Pe 3:9). He has not “forgotten to be gracious” (Psa 77:9). He still loves to “reveal His Son” in sinners (Gal 1:15-16). Dear saint, how long have you prayed for that burden your heart still carries? The years have passed, and that loved one so dear to you is still not saved. How often have you heard, “God’s delays are not His denials”? Our family, through the incredible grace of God, has learned this by experience. Long after Bobby went to heaven, whenever the subject of his salvation came up, we just shook our heads in stunned amazement. Did we really trust God to save him? I never thought he would come to Christ. But all along, a faithful little woman, probably two of them, never stopped praying and never gave up on God. The Lord used one to lead him to the cross. And the other, with her mind mostly gone, still trusted the God Whom she had asked for over 70 years to save her son. Her faith in the God of salvation never wavered. So, beloved of the Lord, never give up. Scripture reminds us, “Pray without ceasing” (1Th 5:17). Never stop trusting God. Never doubt His grace, love, longsuffering compassion, or desire to answer your prayers. When the long-awaited moment comes, your soul will lift heavenward, overwhelmed that the Anchor of your soul heard every one of those prayers through all those years.