Friday, June 14, 2013

But If Not

Earlier this week I had a conversation with an old friend. He is very talented and through years of hard work has earned the accolades of his peers and the financial benefits of a very successful career. As a young man he served an honorable full time mission for the LDS church and graduated from BYU, but as his life progressed he started to stray from his beliefs. Now 10 years later he is living a lifestyle that is in nearly complete opposition to the precepts he used to know were true.

When I asked how he had gotten to this point he answered that he had tendencies towards certain types of behavior starting in high school and had been very unhappy about it. He thought that if he went on a mission and worked as hard as he could that God would remove his challenges. When that didn’t happen he became disillusioned and started to fall away from what he knew to be true. He felt it was too difficult to go on fighting against his “natural man” and simply gave in.  My heart breaks for him. He is an elect son of God who has missed the point of the Gospel and it is leading him down a path that will not take him where he wants to go.

At this point I’m sure you are wondering how in the world this sad story relates at all to Father’s Day? As I thought about my friend and the countless others who mistakenly believe that God removes all problems and temptations from those who keep the commandments there were certain things that my dad taught me, mostly by example, that kept coming to my mind.

Dad grew up on a small farm in rural Idaho. His family was poor but hard working. He was intensely shy and so being called to serve a mission in Detroit Michigan in the midst of the 1967 race riots was obviously a stretch for him.  Just as he was beginning to get comfortable being a missionary life changed forever. He and his companion were hit head on by a drunk driver. The crash killed dad’s companion and crushed him from the waist down. He spent 10 days in a coma and his parents were brought out to say their goodbyes. He was not supposed to live.

Astoundingly, he did wake up and was informed that there was no possibility he would ever walk again. He chose not to believe the doctors. After months in a body cast that reached from his armpits to his toes and scores of operations he was finally able to begin physical therapy. With the help of nurses and doctors he worked hard and suffered inhuman amounts of pain to get back on his feet. He was released from the hospital on the exact release date of his mission and he walked out of there.

Dad found that perseverance, prayer, humor and hard work can bring about miracles with the Lord’s help. He believed the words of President Hinkley who said "You have not failed until you quit trying." Even with the miracle that occurred he suffered immeasurably the rest of his life dealing with the after effects of such a devastating accident. The Lord allowed him to walk but did not remove the burden of pain and ill health.

“What does the Lord expect of us with respect to our challenges? He expects us to do all we can do. He does the rest. Nephi said, "For we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do. We must have the same faith as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. 
Our God will deliver us from ridicule and persecution, but if not. . . . Our God will deliver us from sickness and disease, but if not . . . . He will deliver us from loneliness, depression, or fear, but if not. . . . Our God will deliver us from threats, accusations, and insecurity, but if not. . . . He will deliver us from death or impairment of loved ones, but if not, . . . we will trust in the Lord.
Our God will see that we receive justice and fairness, but if not. . . . He will make sure that we are loved and recognized, but if not. . . . We will receive a perfect companion and righteous and obedient children, but if not, . . . we will have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, knowing that if we do all we can do, we will, in His time and in His way, be delivered and receive all that He has.” 
Forty years later Dad suffered a debilitating stroke which paralyzed ½ of his body and blinded one of his eyes. Out of necessity he came to live in a care facility. Even though he was severely handicapped he spent his time there comforting the afflicted and visiting with the lonely. Many nights would find aides and nurses receiving counsel about life at his bedside. He did missionary work and brought several people back into activity. The conditions were humbling in every way but dad kept a remarkably upbeat attitude during his time there. He told me that Heavenly Father was giving him opportunities to serve every single day and that he was making a difference.

When Dad passed away I had the distinct impression that his spirit stood up out of his wheel chair, shook off the effects of a body that had been ravaged by 40 years of unspeakable pain, sprinted out the door, and then put on his missionary suit and tie and went to work preaching the Gospel. He was going to finish what he started in Detroit all those years ago. He had trusted the Lord and the Lord had kept His promise.
Now don’t get me wrong, dad was certainly not perfect. He had his faults, and challenges and he fell down a lot. He made mistakes in his life and acted badly at times. He sometimes did things that hurt those around him, but the thing about dad that taught me the most was that even when the Lord doesn't take our burdens from us, even when they stretch us and hurt us more than we think it is possible to bear, even when we choose wrongly and fall from grace all we have to do is exercise a particle of faith, repent, get back up, work hard, do what we know is right, try again and the Lord will keep his promises to us. He will take our challenges and temptations and mold us into a new being. He will make us like Him.

On this Father’s Day I am grateful for Fathers and what they teach us. I’m grateful for flawed men who fall down and continue to get back up and try again. For dad’s who persevere, for dad’s that stalwartly hold to the truths of the Gospel, for dad’s who say “but if not… I will trust in the Lord.”
"God bless you, dear fathers. May He bless you with wisdom and judgment, with understanding, with self-discipline and self-control, with faith and kindness and love. And may He bless the sons and daughters who have come into your homes, that yours may be a fortifying, strengthening, guiding hand as they walk the treacherous path of life. As the years pass—and they will pass ever so quickly—may you know that "peace... which passeth all understanding" (Philip. 4:7) as you look upon your sons and daughters, who likewise have known that sacred and wonderful peace." (Gordon B. Hinkley)

Happy Father’s Day!


1 comment:

  1. How did I miss this post? I am crying. I love hearing these things about your dad, and I really loved your other post about continuing to build your relationship with him even after he has passed away. I can't think of anything that is more fitting for a Father's Day tribute. Thanks for this-sometimes I think after falling down, yet again, that there is no reason to get up. But there is, and you have reminded me of that. Love you!


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