This story has been published in several magazines and it remains a favorite because it illustrates how the Father embraces people, any time, any place, at any age. Nothing is an obstacle to him, not even debilitating illnesses like Alzheimer’s disease.
By Rose McCormick Brandon
Dad gave to the poor, loved his family and lived a disciplined life but, he didn’t like church. In his view, the church persecuted the world by producing endless crops of hypocrites whose religion extended only as far as their wallets. He spoke from past experiences that I knew nothing about. In spite of his low opinion of church, he allowed my mother and his five children to make their own decisions in matters of faith.
Decades later, after all of us were married, we became concerned for Dad. We prayed for a softening in his attitude toward the gospel. We didn’t care if he went to church but we wanted him to know Jesus. It seemed there was an impenetrable wall between Dad and God. Whenever the subject of faith came up, Dad would remember all the rude, money-loving, arrogant Christians he’d known. He seemed not to notice genuine believers.
In his early seventies, our suspicion that Dad had Alzheimer’s disease was confirmed. We wondered how long it would be before he lost the ability to understand his need to personally accept Christ as his Savior.
Once, while suffering severe pain in his joints, he welcomed our offer to gather around and pray for him. In minutes, the pain subsided. Several other times he stepped close to believing but at the launching pad of faith he always tripped over the hypocrites.
Alzheimer’s disease stole Dad’s fondest memories and filled him with fear. Like a lost little boy he searched for his parents and older sister. He no longer recognized my mother as his sweetheart but longed for the woman he called his first wife.
My siblings and I left our families to give Mom occasional breaks from caring for Dad. On one of these trips, a heavenly idea came to me – I would take Dad for a walk and I wouldn’t bring him back to the house until he had accepted Jesus. This was a radical plan but I sensed the idea came from the Father and not my own mind.
After unpacking the car, I said, “Dad, would you like to go for a walk?” His body was strong enough to walk around the world but because he couldn’t find his way back, he needed a companion.
At the end of the driveway, he slipped his hand in mine. As we walked through autumn leaves, I pointed to a row of maples. “Look at the beautiful colors in those trees, Dad. Jesus made those.”
“Uh-huh.” His concept of seasons was gone; the maples held little interest. His pace slowed as I continued to point. I could almost hear him thinking, “There’s something new and beautiful.”
“Jesus made those for you Dad.”
I talked about the sky, warmth and wind, mentioning Jesus as the creator of each one, pressing His name into Dad’s wounded mind. The longer we talked, the more alert Dad became.
“Jesus wants you to believe in Him, Dad.”
“If I have to be like those people,” his voice faltered, “I guess I’ll just have to go to hell.” By “those people” he meant the hypocrites.
“Jesus doesn’t want you to be like them, Dad. He wants you to be like Him” That thought sparked his interest.
“Jesus.” He said the name slowly.
On a deserted gravel road, wind tossing leaves at our feet, we said together – “Jesus.” His eyes drifted over my shoulder as he struggled to hold the fleeting thought.
“I believe Jesus!” He blurted, voice cracking but determined.
Back at the house, my sister waited in the living room. “Dad, tell Brenda what we talked about on our walk.” Most conversations were forgotten within seconds or even mid-sentence.
“I believe Jesus,” he told her.
From that day until his death a year later, we never doubted the genuineness of Dad’s faith. Even the giant of Alzheimer’s is no match for the name of Jesus.
Jesus told a story about workers hired at different times of the day, some early, some at mid-day, others near quitting time. When payday came, each received the same amount. Jesus used this story to illustrate that some people begin to follow Him early in life, others, like the thief on cross, join up at the last minute. At the end of time, every follower will receive the same reward – eternal life.
Dad showed up when his shift was almost finished. A late arrival, but not too late.
This story is included in my book, One Good Word Makes all the Difference.