Going Deep With ‘Tile Bill’

When my wife and I relocated from California to Texas in 2012, we hired a contractor to build a home for us—one that we sold two years later because God had other plans.

The sub-contractor doing the tile work was a man named “Bill.” There were actually several men named Bill, including our contractor, so our tile man became known as “Tile Bill.”

This man had lived a hard life. He was a chain smoking individual with miles of rough road in the rearview mirror. I had almost nothing in common with him, but due to his frequent smoke breaks, I engaged him on several occasions and we developed a friendship.

Over time, he entrusted me with many heart-breaking stories, including the heroin overdose death of his wife.

I read Luke 5 this morning in preparation for a small group Bible study. The future-disciples (Peter, James, and John) had just come in from an unsuccessful all night fishing venture. As a result, they were no doubt discouraged. After teaching the crowds from their boat, Jesus told them, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”

The simple advice did three things:

  • It conflicted with their professional expertise—night fishing was best.
  • Their attention was redirected.
  • Jesus told them to go deep.

As I reflected on this passage more than four years after meeting Tile Bill, the man that worked on my house came to mind. Jesus called me to do the same thing.

  • Tile Bill’s lifestyle conflicted with my background in law enforcement.
  • Jesus redirected my attention to his needs.
  • God had me go deep in an area that was uncomfortable.

I had a chance to share my faith with a man that God placed in my path, just as Jesus told the Peter, James, and John they would become fishers of men.

Shortly after our house was complete, and my first book, The Spirit behind Badge 145 had been recently published; Tile Bill came over to finish some repairs. When he was done, I gave him a copy of the book, which is filled with stories about cops and robbers for the purpose of presenting the gospel. He accepted it with gratitude.

Nearly a year later I had a chance meeting with the woman he was dating. As we spoke she became teary eyed. She was barely able to verbalize that Tile Bill had passed away due to cancer about two months prior. While on his deathbed he gave her my book, and asked her to read it.

I will not know what happened with this man until I stand before God at the Bema Seat. But this much I know:

  • God’s instruction seemed to conflict with my professional expertise.
  • He redirected my attention to a man that needed a Savior.
  • I needed to go deep as I was out of my comfort zone sharing my faith with Tile Bill.

Yet just as the future-disciples pulled in a net full of fish when they obeyed Christ, I hope and pray that Tile Bill responded to God’s invitation to join him in eternity, and I will one day hear his story of salvation.

– Jim

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