The Story of Fred
This story is credited 100% to my friend, Leo C. Cramer. It supports my belief in “universal salvation”, but that is my interpretation, not Leo’s. Once we recognize God at work in individuals like Fred, then many of our opinions and judgments melt away. At least they do for me. This was taken “From the Pastor’s Pen” in the 1980’s.
“Doris called the other day to tell me that her Dad, Fred, had died. He had been a friend of mine for sometime and a man that I thoroughly enjoyed. We hadn’t been fishing or hunting buddies or even sharing books in common, just one of those friendships that come about because of where he worked and where I stopped. Fred never came to church with his wife. She was one of those who rarely missed. He claimed she had religion enough for both of them but that is never the case.
I first met Fred out in the alley behind our house. He lived just behind us at one end of the alley. We lived on the other end. He was tinkering around with a lawn mower at the time. He could fix anything that was supposed to run and wouldn’t. I pushed the lawn mower down to him and he looked it over. In a very few moments my mower was running smoothly and ready to go. I think really the mower was afraid not to run. If Fred had talked to me the way he did the mower I would have run too. He had colorful and descriptive language. Oh, I had heard all those words before but never quite in the sequence he was able to ‘cut them loose.’ For employment Fred ran the local Exxon Station. The air around the station was often blue and not from exhaust fumes, more often from Fred’s talking to the things he worked with and on.
But, Fred was a kind man. He would do anything for anybody. He often shared with me the names and reasons of folks who could ‘use a lift.’ He was tough but very gentle. I often invited him to church but he never came. He had many excuses, the chief of which was that the roof wasn’t strong enough.
His favorite expression concerning one old VW that I owned was that if I promised to leave town with it and never come back he would fill it with free gas.
He was hospitalized once because of an acid spill from a battery on his leg and foot. I visited him and he said, ‘You would probably feel better if you prayed for me so go ahead.’ I did.
I think over the years I developed an understanding of Fred. I know God did so I’ll leave any and all judgment about him to God. One of his last requests to his daughter Doris was simply, ‘Call my preacher when I’m gone. Ask him if his cars and mower still run and tell him thanks from Fred.’
I simply said that morning in my devotions, ‘Thanks God, for Fred.'” (end of story)
For years I could not use that story in a sermon without getting emotional and I didn’t even know Fred.
But I have known lots of Freds.
I was Master of Ceremonies at a Memorial Service for a member of the Stanwood Lion’s Club and during the service (attended by nearly 300 people), the deceased brother spoke of his concern for his brother’s eternal destiny because his brother was different than he was on the point of church participation. I responded that if this individual didn’t make it with God, then we were all in trouble. Some one challenged me after the service and I was able to share my faith. He was not convinced, but at least I made my witness. And what more can I do, given what I believe about God.