An Encounter with God
Have you ever prayed for someone’s salvation with all your heart but with a sinking feeling that it would never happen?
When I became a Christian many years ago, one of my fervent prayers was that I could lead my dad to Christ. Dad was a tough cookie. He lived his life loud and hard, but I never doubted for a minute he loved me. But every time the subject of Jesus came up, it ended in a shouting match. I guess I’m too much like my father in some respects; his bullheadedness would match mine and sparks would fly. My dad had been raised Catholic and he believed in God, but he also believed that when he died, he could shake his fist at God and demand answers. He couldn’t abide suffering, so those infomercials you see on TV where kids are starving would always set him off. “Why does God allow that?” was his question, and he was certain that one day he’d be able to get in God’s face and ask Him.
One time after a heated argument, the Lord spoke to my heart. The message seemed clear: the fights with my father about salvation were not useful; it just wasn’t my place to witness to him. So I kept praying. I prayed for his heart to soften, for people to talk to him about salvation, for the Lord to reach him somehow.
By the time my dad reached his 90th birthday, I was still praying, but hope was fading. He had dementia and a meaningful conversation was nearly impossible. I moved in with my folks to help with his care. Many a day I was on my face before God, not only praying for my dad but for me, because helping to take care of him was the hardest thing I’d ever done. It was frustrating, infuriating, and devastating to see my father’s mind deteriorate in front of my eyes.
I’d been his caregiver for four years when his health began to deteriorate quickly about Christmas, 2011. He was in and out of the hospital; every time he’d go there, he’d come out worse because the visits messed with his dementia. He became combative and much harder to work with.
Often, early morning walks with my dogs were my only respite, a time when I could pray and recharge before the day began. One morning on my walk, it was so early the sun hadn’t come up yet. As we approached a corner, I heard a voice so clear and so loud in my ear that I turned to see who was there. But no one was there. The voice had said, “Trust God.” It was scary and encouraging at the same time. There was a lot going on in my life right then, but I knew those words were for me concerning my father and his salvation.
A couple days later we were once again taking my dad to the emergency room—this time because he had no circulation in his foot and lower leg. I didn’t know as I was driving there that this would be the worst day of my life to that point. But the day went from bad to worse when the doctor told me my father’s leg would have to be amputated above the knee. Dad was pretty much out of it, in the la-la land of dementia, so that was a blessing. And as they took him off to surgery with things about as bad as they could be, I kept hearing, “Trust God.”
That horrible day bled into a horrible month and my dad continued his rapid decline. We couldn’t care for him at home and he had to go to a nursing home. As I put one foot in front of the other, surviving each day, two words kept me grounded and gave me peace: trust God.
My father passed away about a month after the amputation. He didn’t all of a sudden become lucid and tell me he’d accepted Jesus and have a heartfelt conversation with me. But I experienced the peace that passes understanding, even while I sat next to him and he could no longer communicate. When he took his last breath, I was there and I knew without a doubt his next stop was heaven.
Until I get there, I won’t know how God reached him, what went on, but I do know that we serve a good and merciful God. And I trust him.