I’m learning to see more of my poor choices as learning lessons rather than regrets. Yet there still are choices that no matter the lessons learned, I regret them immensely. And ignoring a prompting to reach out to someone is always a regret.
Potato planting season in Idaho is a race against time. For my father’s farm, it’s 14 hour days, 6 days a week, for 4 weeks. The spring after my freshman year of college, I was assigned my 4 week sentence in a John Deere tractor 8400T series. The general rule of my father: The planting tractors are to be going non-stop during planting hours. Tractor operators don’t leave the tractors unless someone spells (relieves) them.
One day, I had a strong prompting that I needed to take flowers to an elderly widow who attended the church ward I grew up in. Sister Ruth Kimball was her name. She was 84 years old and lived on the edge of the ward boundary in a trailer park. I had gotten to know Sister Kimball through youth activities and visits my parents took upon them to initiate. Sister Kimball was the salt of the earth.
The prompting came in the morning to visit Sister Kimball with flowers. And so did the reminder that I didn’t have time to stop planting. I said, “I’ll do it tomorrow.” And tomorrow came. And so did the same prompting to visit Sister Kimball with flowers as well as the same reminder that I didn’t have time to stop planting. I said for a second time, "I’ll do it tomorrow.” And tomorrow came again. Like clock work, the prompting came to deliver flowers to Sister Kimball as well the reminder that I didn't have time to stop planting. I said for a third time, “I’ll do it tomorrow.” The tomorrows kept coming, but the visit with flowers to Sister Kimball never did.
The following Sunday service was fast and testimony meeting where congregation members can stand and bear their testimonies of God. Sister Ruth Kimball walked to the pulpit that Sunday morning to share hers. She said in effect, “This past week has been terribly hard and lonely for me. I prayed for comfort from God and…”. I don’t even remember what she said after that. But I remember the rebuking by the Spirit for my disobedience to those 3 specific promptings to visit her with flowers.
I tried to make things right that next week and I visited Sister Kimball with the most beautiful flowers I could find in my small home town. But it wasn't the same. Sometimes we miss the opportunity to be an answer to someone's prayer and we can't go back an recreate it. This was a lesson learned, but, oh, the regret from my decision to not stop planting and visit Sister Kimball has always bothered me.
Never do I want to fail God in showing His love for someone like Sister Kimball through me. And never do I want to see that I failed to lift another’s burden because I was too busy or lazy. This is God’s work. He is in charge and there is always time to stop planting for a prompting.