I met a man in hell last week.

“At the end of things, the blessed will say, ‘We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven.’  And the lost will say, ‘We were always in Hell.’  And both will speak truly.” C.S. Lewis

I met a man in hell last week.  Note, I did not say he was from hell, nor did I say he was going there nor that I went to hell to meet him.  He is there, even while he is here in this world.  His life is very sad, and whenever he crosses my mind, I will say a prayer for him that maybe someone else will be able to help him see where he is.

From our first meeting, there was a quiet discomfort in working together on a house my company is building.  But he seemed knowledgeable and nice enough.  More importantly he said he had done the flat-work of concrete for the house next to ours, and I had seen that work was all right.  But there it was, in the back of my mind, like a kind of gnat flying around that I could not quite see quickly enough to smack, yet not so big or nasty of a bug to gain my full attention.  So I hired him to do our flat-work and he would come back after we got the walls poured.  If I had been wise, I should have asked the builder of the house next to ours whether he would recommend this man, as I found out later, he had never heard of him.

We finished pouring the walls on May 22, followed by removal of the braces that had supported the ICFs during the pour, and that was followed by the plumber getting the rough in plumbing done for the basement – the work that would need to be below the basement floor.

So by May 27 the plumber finished as we were ready for the pour of the basement floor.  But the flat-work guy would not be available till Monday, June 1, so we thought we could wait for the job to begin.

There were problems with this guy that almost made me delay the pour and hire someone else, but he appealed to me, and part of why I started my company was to help some of the tradesmen I would encounter.

But one thing after another went wrong on the job, and in our communication.  As patient as I was with him, nothing seemed to be right; no one seemed to do their part of the job correctly;  deceit seemed to be common for him, from claiming to be married to claiming to be at one site when he was not there, to claiming his “wife” was out of town when she was not.  I really felt badly for the guy, as nothing ever seemed to work right for him; everybody seemed out to take advantage of him; no one would look out for his interests.  He accused me of ordering the concrete late; not having my act together; not knowing what I wanted to do.

When we resolved matters of how much to pay him, after two days of argument over what equipment he had, what he had promised to do, etc, I asked if we could talk for a few minutes.  Per his standard operating procedure, he said he had too much to do and other places to be, lines I had heard repeatedly in our dealings.  As conciliatory as I tried to be, he left angry and frustrated, that he had again been taken advantage of, and I assure you he was not.

I felt very sad the rest of that day, as I remember being there about 30 years ago when I was not living right.  No one understands, no one cares, nothing is ever going to go right, I was always going to be on the losing end.  I was in hell back then until I found peace in Jesus Christ.   But the next day, I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.  His life in hell had been draining me and dragging me down.  Try as much as I could, I could not get through to the man, and help him to see how he could get out of the hell he is in.  It is scary to see someone going down a path I once was on, wishing he could find the way out.  Scariest is that I could still be on that path except for the grace of the God Who Is There.

C.S.Lewis from The Pilgrim’s Regress:

Nearly they stood who fall; themselves as they look back
See always in the track the one false step, where all
Even yet, by lightest swerve of foot not yet enslaved,
By smallest tremor of the smallest nerve, might have been saved.

Nearly they fell who stand, and with cold after fear
Look back to mark how near they grazed the Siren’s land,
Wondering that subtle fate, by threads so spidery fine,
The choice of ways so small, the event so great, should thus entwine.

Therefore oh, man, have fear lest oldest fears be true,
Lest thou too far pursue the road that seems so clear,
And step, secure, a hair-breadth boundary,
Which, being once crossed forever unawares, denies return.

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