See last week for the run-up to “Ruth in 9a’s” point-blank question to me: “Am I going to hell?”
I hesitated. She reassured me: “Seriously. I want to know.”
Looking back across the empty seat between us, I could no longer see Ruth’s face. Just her profile in the fading 6pm light, framed in the cabin window at 30,000 feet.
“Hell is a place God will never bother you again,” I said. “None of his good gifts will be there. Is that what you want? It’s your choice.”
“I believe even an atheist will be accepted by God if they’re a good person. More so than a bad religious person,” she asserted.
“May I challenge you with something?” I asked.
“It sounds like you’re saying that anyone who’s a good person will be accepted by God. It doesn’t really depend on any religious commitments.”
“That goes against how many Christians practice their faith. They believe the only path to God is through Jesus. So you’re telling us we’re wrong.”
“Yes . . . I suppose I am.”
“Usually it’s the other way around. People accuse Christians of being exclusive. But I guess everyone is exclusive at some point.”
“I hadn’t thought of it that way.”
“Never sit by an evangelist on an airplane,” I grinned.
She laughed and waved a hand. “No, I love these conversations. I find them enlightening.”
“You’re a brave soul.”
I asked about her studies. She feels called to be a doctor (like her father), to help people in need.
She explained her affiliation with an organization that provides free medical service to the rural poor in Latin America.
She was articulate, impressive.
God was with me. I suggested she think of her calling and abilities as divine gifts and that if she would connect them to Jesus they’d come alive. She’d be empowered beyond her imaginings.
“I’ll have to think about that,” she reflected.
St. Louis was imminent. Before touchdown, our conversation took an unusual turn. I’ll share it next week.