Will I Meet Johnny in Heaven?

by Patrick Stewart

Do you ever wonder who you will meet first in heaven? I mean after the Lord of course. And maybe it will take a few hundred million earth years before we will finally be able to take our gaze off the Trinity to see who else is adoring the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

I wonder if I’ll meet Johnny Taylor, the man who beat me up in his mobile home. Actually, I think that if I had given him just an ounce more resistance than I did, he would have murdered me.

I was a door-to-door salesman that summer, a young guy just finished with freshman year in university, selling Bibles and reference books, going from house to house on the outskirts of a small South Carolina town.

At my fifth stop of that morning, I was invited into a home by a young wife and asked to wait in their family room to speak with her husband.

When he finally came into the room, it seemed obvious that he had just been awakened. He was roughly dressed and gruff in the conversation as I tried to make pre-sales small talk.

At some point I suggested that he might work night shift at the local fabric mill, where every other householder in the neighborhood I had met that morning worked. It was the wrong thing to say.

Suddenly, Johnny leaped out of his chair, grabbed me, and threw me across the room. Then landing on top of me, he started bludgeoning me with his fists.

Johnny’s wife, whose name I never got, somehow managed to talk/scream him back into some semblance of sanity before he did too much damage. Then he had her phone the sheriff, and two deputies were dispatched to the scene of the “crime.”

Johnny somehow convinced those two young officers that I was the bad guy and consequently, without being allowed to say a word, I was handcuffed and driven to jail.

I remember the men and women who had gathered on either side of the highway, as we drove to the station—folks I had met earlier in the morning. They must have heard the siren. I didn’t know if I should look forlorn, sheepish, or triumphant as I gave them a simple nod of the head from the back seat of the patrol car.

The story gets a bit anti-climactic once I got to the interview with the sheriff. I had Bibles in my carrying case, my sales material, company identification and my side of the story.

Johnny had told the deputies that he caught me breaking into his house through a window! My story seemed the more plausible to them, and I was quickly released with no charges laid and no arrest recorded.

Following my grandfather’s advice, I got “right back on the horse” after cleaning up, shaving my mustache (which I thought might have made me look a bit unsavory) and putting on a clean shirt.

I drove back to the street I had been on and, with Bibles and reference books in hand, went to the house across the street from the Taylors’. This happened to be Johnny’s aunt’s house. I told her what had happened, and she quite simply said that “Johnny is a bit touched.” In southern English, that meant that he suffered from mental instability. I’ve always suspected that his wife suffered because of it, too!

Forty-seven years later, I am still praying for Johnny and his wife. And I believe that the Lord allowed that terrible encounter to happen so that I would spend the rest of my life praying for them.

I wonder if they remember me, and if they ever pray for me. And I wonder, when, please God, I finally look around heaven, if I’ll see them there waiting to greet me.

I look forward to seeing them and the hitchhiking stranger I did not pick up on a stormy North England night and the scrubby-faced old man who so kindly looked my way and said, “Good morning, young man” to me as we passed each other on a London sidewalk.

Every wonderful and searing memory of a face and of faces, of sweet and angry voices, gives me opportunity to intercede, to lift up loved ones and feared ones to the heart of the Lord.