Patrick, a Junior VP for a prestigious firm, was thirty years old. He married a girl he met in college, Kelly, and they had twin girls, Emma and Anna. Patrick graduated from a Ivy League college and earned his Masters in Business Administration, pretty sharp guy. His life to this point consisted of putting things on his resume, the job, the salary, the experience. At 30 years old he was making major money, he owned his own home, drove the nicest car on the block and wore tailored suits that cost more than some peoples whole wardrobes. Patrick seemed to have hit the lottery of life.
Patrick had traveled out of town to meet some new clients. His job was to make sure the clients felt good about doing business with his firm. Whatever it took, that’s what Patrick had to do to make sure they stayed happy and the firm made money. On this particular trip the stakes were higher than ever, the clients contract was up and if Patrick did his job well then they would renew. This could land Patrick a promotion to full blown VP and set him up for more success in the future, another resume builder.
On arrival at the office to meet the clients Patrick quickly text his wife Kelly “Wish me luck”. Kelly didn’t respond, she was busy at home with the twins and just discovered she was pregnant with their third child. Patrick was gone a lot with work and Kelly kept a full time job as a mother to 4 year old twins. There would be weeks when Patrick left on Monday morning and didn’t return until Friday night. She would joke with her family and friends that she was a single mother, but deep inside that’s how she really felt. When she finally saw the message she responded by texting “I’ll be praying” but she didn’t, she just said that to say something. She thought to herself “I should pray that they don’t renew and then he would get fired and be home more with me and the kids.” But she could never bring herself to say such a thing.
Patrick was thirty minutes into his client meeting when he glanced down at his phone to read Kelly’s message. He thought to himself “Pray? Praying won’t close this deal, I will.” Patrick had a cynical view of religion, opposite of what Kelly believed. Patrick thought that he was the master of his own destiny and that hard work, determination and self reliance would get him the money and success that he deserved. Kelly on the other hand took the girls to church on Sunday’s while Patrick caught up on sleep. Even though Kelly was a church goer she found it hard to make time to pray. She was always telling people, “I’ll pray for you” but found it difficult to actually do it when she got home. Early on in their relationship Kelly expressed that she wanted her home to be a Christian home. Patrick disagreed and said flat out “I don’t mind you going to church but don’t bring it home with you.”
After the long client meeting it was time for Patrick to shine. He had booked a table at the nicest restaurant in town. Arranged to have the best scotch ready to be served and the finest wines to be poured with dinner. The dinner was a hit and the clients were impressed with how Patrick had treated them to their every need. One of the clients reached over and tugged on Patrick’s jacket to get his attention. “Hey Patrick, where’s the after party?” some of the other company Executives started chiming in, “Ya Patrick, where’s the after party?” Patrick smiled and knew what to do next, he asked for the limo to pull around to take them to the nearest Gentleman’s Club. The night went long and with an excess of alcohol, women and even some drugs. Patrick had done his job and had done it well. The next day the client renewed the contract and Patrick was getting a lot of the credit.
In the middle of good times Patrick had missed a call from Kelly. She wanted to tell him the good news about the new baby on the way. Patrick had seen the missed call and the phone message but chose to ignore it, he was too busy.
The next morning Patrick woke up feeling terrible from the night before. His head was pounding and his eyes were blood shot. Last night wasn’t uncommon for Patrick though. This was part of his job, entertain the client, spare no expense. He would take clients out for drinks, take them to strip clubs, got them drugs, escorts, whatever they wanted and he was part of the action just as much as the clients were.
After taking a shower and drinking a few energy drinks Patrick was ready to head to the airport. He never bothered to listen to Kelly’s voicemail but was excited to call her about his deal. Kelly was getting the kids ready for the day when Patrick called, “Hey babe, guess what? I got the deal closed, I’m going to get that promotion, aren’t you excited for me?” Kelly responded “That’s great, do you want to hear my news?” “Hey, we’ll talk when we get home, they just called for me to board the plane, I’m sure it can wait.” then Patrick quickly ended the phone call.
Patrick boarded the plane, put his carry on up and got comfortable in his seat. Before he turned his phone off he noticed Kelly had text him “You’re a real jerk Patrick”. Puzzled he turned his phone off and buckled his seat belt. Just as he was doing that a very under dressed, 60 something gentleman, sat down beside him. “Hi there, I’m Ron, I guess we’ll be spending the next 3 hours next to each other.” Ron had on corduroy pants, a polo shirt and New Balance white sneakers. Patrick looked sharp wherever he went and wore expensive suits with pricey shoes. Patrick looked over what Ron had on and simply said, “I guess”.
“Are you okay young man?” Ron asked. Patrick thought to himself “well if he wants to engage, I’ll engage.” “Actually, no, my wife just text me and said I was a jerk.” Ron replied, “Well are you?” Patrick got defensive for a second and then calmed down to reply “maybe”. “Well the first step to recovery is to admit you have a problem.” Ron exclaimed.
The flight attendants went through the safety routine and the plane started to head down the runway. Ron began to say a prayer under his breath. Patrick looked at Ron out of one eye as Ron had his hands together with his head bent down and eyes closed deep in prayer. Patrick, with his pride still hurt a little from Ron’s remarks earlier said “If this plane is going down it’s going down you can’t pray that it won’t.” Ron was calm and remarked “I know that, but if it goes down I want to make sure my grand kids know I love them, that my kids know I did my best and that my wife will see me soon.” Patrick was taken back “I’m sorry, I didn’t know, I’m sorry your wife passed.” Ron responded “I’m not, I spent 41 years with that woman, every day was a miracle. She gave me 3 kids and showed me how to be a better man. She put up with my crap, set me straight and believe me, she called me a jerk from time to time, then I realized I was one, did something about it and now I know she looks down at me and thinks I’m doing to good job in this life. And I’ll see her again, cancer took her out of this life and into life eternal and if this plane goes down then I’ll see her with arms wide open waiting to spend eternity with me.” Patrick had not argument for Ron.
The two men started to engage and Ron had told Patrick about heading out of town to see his newest grandchild. Patrick had told Ron about his promotion that was coming up and how he sealed the deal with the clients.
“Ron, why did your wife call you a jerk?” Patrick asked. “I was too focused on getting ahead and never stopped to think about how she felt.” “What did you do?” Patrick asked in a very inquisitive voice. “I was a Pastor, now I’m retired.” Ron responded. “How were you trying to get ahead as a Pastor, I thought all you guys were all about family?” Patrick was puzzled for the second time on this flight. “Because I put career first, I put my needs first, what was in my best interest and I never took time to make sure I prioritized my life.” Ron responded with a sternness in his voice. “You see Patrick, I thought I was a man of God but I was a man of Ron. I was up preaching every Sunday and Monday to Saturday I did the exact opposite of what I preached. I put the God of money, the God of success, the God of Ron way before the God Almighty.” Patrick curiously asked “So you taught about God but you didn’t believe in God?” “Short answer young man, exactly.” Ron looked down at the ground as he responded. Patrick was even more in shock at the answers Ron was giving. Here was this Pastor that didn’t believe in God, it fell right into Patrick’s self belief that he was the master of his own destiny. Then Ron said something else that took Patrick by surprise “Yes, I didn’t believe in God, I read the bible, I preached the message but I didn’t believe in any of it. You know why? Because I had too much to lose to believe in it.” “Too much to lose?” Patrick asked. “I worked and worked Patrick, studied and studied, talked the talk, the whole thing. I had a house, nice cars, nice clothes, I was even kind of a big deal, like you. Everywhere I went people would stop and talk to me, ask me for advice, ask for me to pray for them. Man, I had the good life. Smoking hot wife, kids running around and pretty much everything I earned. But God spoke to me one day and said I need to start a new church in a new city, in a bad neighborhood, and I need to uproot everything I had. I responded to that by saying no to God. I told God that I was happy where I was and I cannot let that go. I was not willing to surrender to God so therefore he became, not real.”
Some time had past and Patrick was processing the things Ron had said. “So you do believe in God?” Patrick asked. Ron answered that question with a question “Do you believe in God?” Patrick answered that question with an emphatic “NO, but my wife does, maybe that’s why she thinks I’m a jerk.” “I think you’re a jerk because you’re a jerk.” Ron said calmly. “I’m not a jerk just because I don’t believe in God.” Patrick rebutted. “Never said that, I just think you’re not seeing the whole picture Patrick. What was the last thing you said to your wife?” “I asked her if she was excited for me, and then she was going to tell me something but I didn’t have time.” Patrick had the look of someone who just realized they had done something wrong. “What do you think she wanted to tell you Patrick?” Ron asked. “I have no idea, but whatever it was I’m a jerk for not listening. I mean I was out late last night, I’ve been working hard on this promotion. I’ve done all the stuff right and now I’m the jerk?” Patrick was coming to some realizations.
Some more time passed and Ron was letting Patrick settle into some of the things that were coming into focus for him. “Patrick, God says show me a mans treasures and the desires of his heart will be there also.” “What’s that supposed to mean?” Patrick asked looking for some insight. “It means, your treasures aren’t with your family, it’s with your money, success, stuff. That’s why you’re a jerk. You see, I know you don’t believe in God, but when you put him first his grace will give you all the things you need.” Ron tried not to preach to Patrick but he couldn’t help it. “Grace, what’s grace?” Patrick was starting to ask more questions like this and Ron was eager to share. “It’s the free and unmerited favor of God, and it comes down from heaven in the form of blessings. You’ve already been blessed in so many ways Patrick and you don’t even know it. I was blessed with a beautiful wife and kids, a great career and a great life but when God came calling I turned my back on him. I thought I could buy my way out of what he was asking by doing more. But you can’t pay for something that’s free. Eventually I hit rock bottom spiritually and relation-ally and I finally told God yes, I was willing to do whatever it took to keep my family together. The other stuff didn’t matter, it was a material. When God calls you have to answer. He will provide you just need to believe.” Patrick tried to justify his actions but couldn’t. Talking to Ron had opened up Patrick to think about all he had done to hurt his family. Patrick thought about all the client outings and what he had done. He started to weep as Ron put his arms around him.
“What is the matter?” Ron asked with a deep caring voice. “I’ve done some pretty bad things, even if God was real he would be so angry at me for doing the things I’ve done, he wouldn’t want me.” Patrick was sobbing incisively. Ron went into some of life experiences. How he had turned away from God and the way it effected his marriage. He told Patrick how he gave his life to Christ after hitting rock bottom. The bottom had consisted of infidelity, a broken church, stealing and breaking the trust of the people who loved him the most. He also told Patrick about the thousands of people that came to Christ after they moved to the inner city to start a new church. How when he found new life it gave him the ability to give others new life as well. Patrick was moved by the confession Ron was giving. “So what now, do I tell you all the bad things I’ve done or something?” Patrick asked while wiping tears from his eyes. “No my son, God already knows. He knows you better than you know yourself. He know how many hairs on your head, he knows your thoughts, he knows it all. God has been watching you since before you were born. He’s actually been pursuing you.” Ron was smiling ear to ear. Patrick asked “Pursuing me? Why would he do that? I have done nothing to earn that.” Ron smiled even wider “Now you know what grace is.”
They continued to talk and then Ron asked if they could pray together. Patrick had never prayed, he thought it was for the weak. He knew his wife said she prayed but he never saw anything come from it. But that day Patrick agreed to pray with Ron. Both men held hands as they closed their eyes. Afterwards Ron said “Patrick, God has a plan for you. You just need to do what he is calling you to do.” Patrick nodded and said “How do I know what he wants me to do?” “You give yourself to him and the rest in easy, you just do.” Ron was surprised by what came next. “Can you help me with that?” Patrick asked like a child asking for help with his homework.
That day on the decent home Patrick gave his life to Christ. Ron prayed a simple prayer witch Patrick “God, I know I’m a sinner and I need a savior. Jesus Christ is that savior. He died for me to save me from my sin. I have been given grace that I cannot earn and I do not deserve but you God, our one true God, has forgiven me through the blood of your son. Thank you, thank you God, you are an awesome God.”
The plane landed safely and Patrick was able to finally check his voice mail from the night before. He called Kelly right away. “Honey, I’m so sorry, I should have listened to you before, what was it that you wanted to tell me?” Kelly answered “I’m pregnant” Patrick was overjoyed, he told Kelly about how he had met pastor on the plane and how he gave his life to Christ. “Patrick, you can’t joke about things like that.” Kelly said. “No, I’m serious, I prayed, I did it, right on the plane, I’m serious.” Patrick was so excited. “I’ve also decided I can’t do this job any longer, it’s not what I want to do, I want to be the husband and the father you need me to be.” Kelly had dropped to her knees by this point. “What are we going to do?” Kelly asked. “I don’t know.” Patrick answered “But he will provide for us, we just have to listen to what he needs us to do.”
Patrick was so busy on the phone talking to Kelly he lost track of Ron. Out of the corner of his eye he saw him in baggage claim with his daughter, son-in-law and two of his grandchildren. Ron looked back and gave Patrick a nod and then headed to the parking garage.
In the days to follow Patrick started to pray. He attended church for the first time that weekend. Three weeks later he was baptized. 8 months later Kelly gave birth to their third daughter. Patrick had started with a non profit group writing grants. They downsized to a smaller home and bought a mini van. Patrick and Kelly now run the youth ministry at their church and Patrick is leading his family as a Christian.