Robert Goulet died this week at the age of 73 while waiting for a lung transplant. I liked him very much, this handsome singer with the strong resonant baritone voice and the Canadian background.
I met him one time. It was a Sunday afternoon, June 1978, at a Billy Graham rally in Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens. At the time of the invitation, when people were streaming forward, Billy looked back to where I was sitting on the platform and motioned for me.
“Robert Goulet just came forward. I know him,” he whispered. “I’d like you to counsel him.”
I slipped off the platform and quickly recognized and found him at the front of the gathered group.
When the counseling began I introduced myself to him and told him I was Billy’s brother-in-law.
“May I ask why you came forward?” I asked.
“Oh,” he said, “I like Billy and I wanted to encourage him.”
I sensed there was more and asked him to tell me a bit more about his spiritual background and interest.
“I go to a church in California,” he said, “and my pastor is Donn Moomaw. He’s a wonderful man. In heaven I know he and Billy will be right up front and center. Me, I know I will be at the far edge some place and I hope I’m just close enough where I can wave and they can see me.”
“I know Donn, and so does Billy,” I said. “Robert, what do you think it will take to get to heaven?”
He thought a minute. “I think it’s as if God has a big pair of scales,” he said. “He puts our good deeds in one side and our bad in another. If the good outweighs the bad we get in.”
“Robert,” I said, “if that’s it, then Billy is not going to make it. Neither is Donn. Neither am I.”
“Then who the (expletive deleted) can make it?” he blurted out, looking startled.
“No one,” I said, “but for the grace of God.”
“You’ve been to London I imagine?” I asked, remembering an illustration from John Stott.
“Well, if you are looking across the Thames River, what do you see? Old Bailey, the halls of justice, and St. Paul’s Cathedral, right?”
“On the top of Old Bailey you recall is the figure of Justice, blindfolded, and with a scales in hand. And what’s on the golden dome of St. Paul’s? A cross!”
He nodded again, listening closely.
“You see, Robert, Christianity is not a religion of the scales, but of the cross. None of us is good enough by the scales of justice to come to a perfect God. But anyone – you, Billy, Donn Moomaw, me – can come to God because of the cross, That’s where Jesus died in our place, and brought not justice but mercy to those who accept him.”
We prayed together. He thanked me. We said goodbye.
About a week later I got an unexpected phone call from Robert Goulet, from his home in California.
“Leighton,” he said, “I’ve been thinking about what we talked about. I’ve written a poem I want to read to you.” Here in part is what he read.
There’s only one man I want to meet,
And that man is Jesus.
Not Donn or Billy. Jesus.
Robert Goulet got it.
I think some place I have a copy of that little poem.
And I wonder whether Robert thought back often to that Sunday afternoon in Toronto. And whether while he waited for a transplant he thought of the faith, not of the scales, but of the cross.
I can believe, if he did, that his desire came true. That he now is seeing Jesus.
November 1, 2007