Hell Bound

“Dear Sean,” the letter began, “I am worried about your soul because the Bible is clear that if you don’t answer the call of salvation, you won’t be in heaven with the rest of us…”

Hoo boy, here we go.

“…I don’t care how nice of a guy you might pretend to be on social media, Satan is after you, and if you don’t know Jesus Christ, you will suffer in a place where flame never dies…

“Love, Mary Townsend,”
Topeka, Kansas.

Hi Mary. If you have a minute, I’ll tell you a story.

I am going to call her Peggy, but that’s not her name. Peggy was raped when she was 14. She got pregnant by her attacker. Nine months later, boom, she had a kid.

Funny thing is, nobody in her family believed her when she told them what happened. Her family was very, VERY religious. They blamed Peggy for being a, quote, “loose woman.”

The irony is, Peggy wasn’t loose. Peggy had never cut her hair because of her denominational rules. She’d never worn anything but long skirts, never kissed a boy, never held hands. Never done anything other than Scripture drills and VBS. And here she was, in ninth grade, with a baby.

Then, her parents kicked her out of the house. And her “fellowship was withdrawn” by her local church.

Whatever that means.

Why? Because she was living in sin, of course. That’s what everyone said. Her mother and father told her, verbatim, that she was going to “burn in hell.”

Peggy was now a homeless mother. She tried to stay with an aunt, but the aunt could not allow “bad morals” into her home. She tried to stay with friends from church, but nobody would have her home.

For Peggy was a harlot.

So Peggy took the money she had in savings ($73.29) and bought a bus ticket. She traveled to a big city, and checked into a Salvation Army mission. She got a job cleaning dishes in a restaurant; a side-job cleaning hotel rooms.

She raised her son in the back of a Salvation Army, until he was 4 years old. She worked junk jobs until she had enough saved to rent a dingy apartment in a rough part of town.

Fast forward 40 years.

Someone got word to Peggy that the man who had raped her was dying. Someone had told Peggy that this man had been in and out of jail, on and off of drugs, sleeping on friends’ couches, living in his car, and that he was dying alone on the street.

Something pricked Peggy’s heart.

One afternoon, she went out and found the man who had violated her and stolen her youth.

The man was dying of hepatitis C-related complications. Peggy told him, point blank, that she wanted to take care of him as he died. And she offered him a place to live.

The man did not accept her offer. Whereupon he began to cry and told her to leave him alone. Then he struck her. On the face.

A few days later, the man showed up on her porch, carrying a gym bag and a 40-ounce beer. He was stoned. He was weeping. He asked whether or not the offer to be his caregiver still stood. She opened the door and invited him in.

She gave him the back bedroom and prepared a pallet. She introduced him to Her son. His son.

For a solid year, she and her son took care of her attacker until he passed. And on the final day of his life, Peggy and her son both held the man’s hands and told him they loved him.

Peggy told him she forgave him for the pain he had caused. When he died, his last words were, “I don’t deserve this kind of love.”

Her answer was, “I don’t either.”

I met Peggy when she was a 78-year-old woman. Peggy was in the audience where I was making a speech. After my speech, Peggy waited until the room had cleared to talk to me. She told me her story. When she was finished, she introduced me to her adult son.

I asked Peggy whether she still believed she was going to burn in hell, or whether she thought she would go to heaven. She laughed at me.

Her response was: “I don’t care about eternal trophies. What I care about is loving people while I’m still alive.”

But it was her son who left me with some parting words that still haunt me to this day. He said:

“What a hell of a heaven it will be when all the hypocrites are assembled there.”

Love, Sean,
Birmingham, Alabama.


  1. Paul Sams - June 30, 2023 11:34 am

    Amen Sean, Amen

  2. Richard Girdler - June 30, 2023 2:45 pm

    Amen Sean, I just was convicted to reread James 2. 14-26 always hots me straight between the eyes. Signed, a recovering Pharisee in Tennessee.

  3. Tammy Luccioni - June 30, 2023 4:05 pm

    Sean, I leave you the words I heard a very wise pastor say once in a sermon: “Only God knows what’s in your heart”. I personally believe a lot of people are going to be surprised they’re in heaven and a lot are going to be surprised when Jesus tells them “I never knew you”

    The pastor who stated those words never told his congregation, of which I was a member, that he was first cousin to the late Grand Ole Opry legend Roy Acuff, until after Mr. Acuff passed away. I loved hearing his stories of being a moonshine runner until he gave in to the call of becoming a preacher. He was a tail gunner during WW2 and survived being shot down twice. Once he was in the ocean for 10 days with other crew members until rescued. I could go on and on with the stories.

    Rev. Olan Love Daffron passed away in 1997 and I still miss him every day.

  4. Bill Wagner - June 30, 2023 5:31 pm

    Religion is not what saves us. Only Jesus can save us. His sacrifice in our behalf made it possible for us to be in the right relationship with God, our Creator. We are all sinners; therefore we all need a saviour. Peggy’s family did not know Jesus the Son or God the Father. They only knew religion. In Jesus’ own words: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” ~ John 14:6. When Jesus was on earth, He spent much of His time contending with the Jewish religious elite. They couldn’t accept Him because He was the Son of God. Heaven will be filled with those who chose Jesus and His saving Grace, His children. That is God’s promise to man.

    In that day they will say,
    “Surely this is our God;
    we trusted in him, and he saved us.
    This is the Lord, we trusted in him;
    let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.” ~ Isaiah 25:9

    Love, Bill,
    Birmingham Alabama

  5. Dee Thompson - June 30, 2023 7:21 pm

    I believe God is Love and Love is God. I believe just as we are all born the same way we will all die the same way and go to the same place. I feel sorry for people who divide up the world into the “saved” and the “un-saved” because they spend a lot of energy in judgment instead of using their time and energy to make the world a better place. I would bet my savings that YOU, my friend, will know the same afterlife as the rest of us, with the added bonus of once again encountering not only your precious daddy but the many people you have helped with your writings. Keep on fighting the good fight, and ignore folks like Mary.

  6. Barbara Sell - June 30, 2023 7:28 pm

    So very true!!

  7. Becky Souders - June 30, 2023 8:29 pm

    Bravo, Sean Dietrich!

  8. Krista - June 30, 2023 9:23 pm

    Mary needs your love every bit as much as Peggy does.

  9. ron - July 1, 2023 12:08 am

    something i have learned in my lifetime[ almost 70 yrs] of attending backwoods wva churches.
    nobody can hate like a person that never misses a sunday service

  10. stephen e acree - July 1, 2023 1:53 pm

    Amazing. And her grace was more than amazing. Her parents and those that refused to help from that CONgregation obviously didnt get the after life they imagined. The Jesus we hear about taught us to love. Not love just who we believe is good but love one another. I dont see any caveats in that message. I know I Love reading your stuff Sean and love you. Thanks again

  11. Janne P Swearengen - July 2, 2023 8:30 pm

    This is an incredible example of “Loving Someone Forward”. What a magnificent story.


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