“Now remember this Tony, after you say whatever you need to say, tell em, ‘Do whatever you want with this, you will anyway.”‘
Thomas B. Saunders
Thirty years ago in the small village of Merrickville, Ontario our children took up being friends with the Saunders’ kids. At that time Tommy and his first wife, Linda had three children exactly the same ages as ours. It was a good fit, so though we never formally met we were both known to each through our kids.
To be honest, Tommy had a bit of a reputation. He was fearless (the better description might have been, “wild”), known for living on the edge and I would not be betraying any trust, as he would be first to tell you, that he was reckless – reckless at driving, a womanizer, a rough neck, gambler and, at times, a weekend druggie and drunk.
We were in the middle of a Pentecost Revival equivalent to that in the Book of Acts. Our little church which began with about nine adults had begun to explode and sometimes we would baptize more than twenty people at the beach on the Rideau River in Merrickville. Some of Tommy’s friends had become Christians, left the party life and this left him bewildered, curious and confused.
I never really met Tommy until one Sunday afternoon when at the beach baptizing I got a glimpse of him. He didn’t seem so bad to me as everyone said. In fact, Tommy was respectful as he watched us immerse some of the towns people. Tommy was no mocker of God.
Through a variety of circumstances, Tommy also committed his life to Christ and became an outspoken witness for the Gospel. As the owner of Montague Body Shop, hardly a person who came through the door did not hear his story and/or were faced with the Scripture and the claims of the Gospel. Sure some people didn’t like it and Tommy developed another reputation. He became known for standing up for Jesus, being immoveable and unstoppable. In some ways, his forthright style was abrasive as is mine (or so I am told). He liked to call the two of us “dog and shooter.” He claimed to be the dog and referred to me as the shooter. There is one thing for sure, like those of the first century church no criticism or threat could silence him. I am proud to have played some small part in his coming to Christ. Both heaven and earth have been immeasurably blessed by his uncompromising convictions.
Friday morning, I dropped by to see him at his home just on the outskirts of Smith’s Falls, Ontario. At the moment Tom can barely get around and upon arrival informed me that he was three days on the couch and could not so much as make his way across the parking lot. Tom has cancer. It’s serious – dead serious and if a miracle doesn’t happen and soon then as he says, “It will be a death sentence.” Yet, when I sat across from him at his kitchen table, his Bible open and warm from the reading, he continued to speak the Word of God as though nothing has changed. The New Testament describes the likes of Thomas Saunders, “And as the Scripture hath said, He that believes on me as the Scripture has said, out of his (or her) inner most being shall flow rivers of living water.” I came away from him feeling drenched.
I didn’t really go all the way to Smith’s Falls to pray for Tommy though I expected I would and did. I believe in laying hands on the sick and praying for people and, in so doing, have seen my fair share of critical, even death-bed situations turned around to the glory of God. My real purpose in going to see him was to look into his face – a face hardly recognized as his former self – and simply express my gratitude.
Some of the others from thirty or more years ago have packed it in. Some of our closest friends have decided to live adulterously, to abandon the people of God and to even deny the Lord that bought them. Not Thomas B.. Many times he would have had as good or even better reasons than others to turn tail and go AWOL. It is folks like Thomas B. that have made the difference in my life by reminding me that I am not alone. There are others that have meant business from the “get go.”
With tears in our eyes we embraced one another and perhaps for the last time on this side but we are not sorry. I imagine a fearful day of terror for others when they realize they have sold their God-given birthright for a puny bowl of slim soup as did Esau and the Bible tells us that he “looked for a place of repentance, but could find none.” He was desperately sorry but it was TOO LATE. This, I am afraid, will be the case for others when the realize they have squandered their lives for nothing.
The old southern Gospel song has this line, “I wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now.” For those who have turned their backs on Christ, in time they will all go the same way – the way of all flesh. One day, they will be clinging to their last breath and what then, nothing but hopelessness, anguish and regret.
“Do whatever you want with this, you will anyway.”
As Tommy says, it’s a fact, in the end, everyone does exactly what they want to do anyway.