To one who invests all their time and energy into gaining absolute control over their world, such a thought is at best unsettling, at worst, terrifying. To acknowledge the randomness of life is to acknowledge that no matter how hard we try, our ability to impose order on chaos is limited. If we lay up our riches in the material things of the world, then all we have worked for can be destroyed in an instant. Hurricanes, floods, tornados, tsunamis, fires, and even the more mundane events like theft or robbery can take from us our worldly goods.
If such is the case, then where shall we go to find hope? Where shall we go to find an unshakable foundation? If man is wise, he will turn to God. In some circles, it is fashionable today to look down upon those of faith as being unenlightened, as being foolish and gullible for "clinging to their ... religion." In these circles, the religious are thought to be beholden to fairy tales and ghosts, beholden to finding comfort in imaginary beings.
Yet, such was not always the case. At the birth of our nation, the Founding Fathers were the wisest and most accomplished men America had to offer, and virtually all were men of religion and faith. Benjamin Franklin, seeing the impasse created during the Constitutional Convention and the rising ire among the delegates, reminded them of their place in the universe. Said he, "Have we now forgotten that powerful Friend? Or do we imagine that we no longer need His assistance? I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth -- that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the Ground without His notice, is it probable that an Empire can rise without his Aid?"
Two weeks ago I was contacted by my sister and told my father was in the hospital; the doctors told her he had less than 24 hours to live. My wife asked if I was going to see him, and I told her that I honestly did not know. I didn't see the point. To say that the relationship between my Father and I was strained is to say that the ocean is damp. For many years my hatred of my father was visceral. Eventually, after getting married to an amazing woman who bore eight beautiful children for me, I realized that my hatred was counterproductive to my happiness, and hate eventually gave way to apathy, and then pity.
Periodically over the years I'd have contact with my father. It never went well. I felt he'd abandoned and betrayed my family, and his version of events seemed completely disconnected from the reality that I grew up in. So when we talked, we argued. Until we didn't. I reached a point where I was tired of arguing with him, knowing that neither of us would change our minds. So when I visited him at the hospital a couple of years ago, and again at his apartment maybe four or five times over the subsequent two years, or the dozen or so times we spoke on the phone, I just let him talk, listening to his encyclopedic recitation of his version of history, not bothering to point out the errors in his narrative. It was a one-way conversation, but simply having me there to listen seemed to give him pleasure, so where was the harm?
My father was a crusader. He saw all of the injustices in the world, especially those of a government which oppressed its own people, and felt that God had placed upon him an obligation to right those wrongs to the best of his ability. He had a brilliant legal mind and used it as a sword, slicing through the cords of official corruption and despotism. His life was one fight after another, helping the "little people" fight back against the arbitrary capriciousness of government bureaucrats. Unfortunately, that left him always angry, even when he was around his own children who desired nothing more than to love him and be loved by him. His constant focus on the evils of the world left him unable to release from the fights and focus on the joys that the world has to offer. He was never able to find that balance which we all need.
That Sunday, as I discussed with my wife whether or not to visit my dying father, I received a second message from my little sister, pleading with me to go be with him because, despite the pain he had caused us over the years, she could not bear the thought of him dying alone. Three of my four sisters live out of state, and of all the kids, I was most likely to get to him before he died. It took me 15 minutes to pack a few things and get out the door.
I arrived early evening and went to his side, but he was not responsive. I'd call his name loudly and his brow would furrow, but that was it. Eventually he opened his eyes but seemed confused and not sure who I was. My oldest sister's family and my uncles would come late that night, but there was only faint recognition. I stayed overnight but had to go into work for a while, and I told my dad I'd be back later.
When I arrived the next afternoon, he was sitting up and talking and laughing, and when he saw me and recognition dawned on his face, he asked if it was really me, and I said it was. He then broke down in sobs of joy as I kissed his face and hugged him, telling him I loved him and all was forgiven. I'll never forget that look.
Defying the doctors, my father would live another 10 days. In that time his own prediction to the doctors was defied, in which he said he'd done too much damage and no one would be there with him before he died. He would live long enough to see his son, four daughters, 17 grandchildren, three brothers, a sister and a number of friends. He would die with joy in his heart, knowing that he was loved.
Through all this I learned a lesson myself. After God, our devotion to family is of the utmost eternal importance. No amount of wealth we acquire, no public stature, no level of influence can compensate for failure within our homes and families. We mustn't let pride undermine those relationships. We must forgive and ask for forgiveness. We must love and be loved.
I know there are many that look at religiousness as foolishness, and that is fine. Yet this testimony I give today ...Christ lives and loves us. He died that we might live. He gave us families that we may have joy in our families as the Father takes joy in us. When we look out into the universe we realize how infinitely small we are; yet to our Heavenly Father we are infinitely important. And that, my friends, is cause for great joy.
Louis DeBroux is a Taylorsville resident, married, with eight children. He is chairman of the Bartow County Republican Party. He owns Gatekeeper data backup and recovery. He can be emailed at email@example.com.