One of my favorite scriptures is found in Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy paths.” I initially encountered these verses during my first year of seminary and quickly felt the Spirit confirming their truthfulness. On the topic of the faith, I wish to share the story of an important part of my short life of 17 years that has encouraged me to come unto Christ, “the fountain of all righteousness.” This story of faith is about my father. Perhaps one important reason why the mentioned scripture in Proverbs became so significant for me in my freshmen year was because it marked the beginning of my father’s second battle with brain cancer. During the following two years my family and I traveled a rollercoaster of hopeful and discouraging news, until the eventual passing of my father in August of 2013. My reason for sharing this experience is certainly not to suggest that major adversity is a prerequisite to developing a strong testimony and character rooted in the gospel. However, we are all directly and indirectly connected to adversity as proof of the love of the Father and the Son for us individually. Therefore, as imperfect mortals trying to be like Jesus, I will share some of the things that have revealed that perfect love in my life and allowed me to keep walking in faith.
Such an account of my father’s life demands that I describe his character and example to everyone, but especially to me while he lived on this earth. I will speak modestly of his personality and character because he was modest, however in thinking of a word to describe him, angelic is the first and only word that comes to my mind. I never heard him say anything at the expense of someone else. And even if I knew that someone’s choices irked him, he always acknowledged that he didn’t have all the facts, and that only the Father and the Son fully understands the thoughts and intents of our hearts. One example of this occurred while he and I were returning home from a 7th grade basketball game one late school night. Somewhere along the way, we encountered an aggressive driver who seemed to be in an extreme hurry, but only if there was a car next to him. At times he would accelerate to at least 25 mph over the speed limit! Eventually we ended up alongside this societal hazard and it was apparently our turn to race this guy. My dad wasn’t too pleased with the manner of this man’s driving, so he subtly boxed him in with the assistance of another car in the other lane. These efforts to ensure the safety of everyone else on the road were not enough however, as the racer sped up and swerved into the shoulder of the road and passed several people including us. I think I recollect one comment of annoyance or at least amusement from my dad about this phenomenon, but for the remainder of the trip we though of dire circumstances that could be causing the man to drive in such a manner. We probably made a joke or two in the process, as any father and son would. “Perhaps he forgot about the cookies in the oven,” we might have said or, “his favorite TV show will start soon: get out of the way!” Ultimately however, we decided that our best course was to be nonjudgmental and kind to this man because among other things, he could be experiencing seen or unseen adversity.
Meaningful experiences like the one just shared surely add to the wellbeing and strength of any family, but my father always focused on the things of eternal value and importance. Within the last two years of his life, his physical capabilities slowly degraded until he was no longer able to attend to his own basic needs or speak coherently. When someone endures this type of gradual adversity, it is common for close family members and friends to say in effect: he/she passed away a while ago. I am eternally grateful to have never felt that way about my dad, and much of that was because of the manner in which he showed his love to everyone. He was determined to endure and love perfectly to the end of his mortal life. I know of only two concerns he had during the last two years of his life. One was that he wished he knew the extent of his life to come, just so he could know. The second was that he didn’t want to leave his family. He wanted to continue living through this life with my wonderful mom and watching over his children—including me. It is one of the Lord’s tender mercies that I am part of an amazing family, and that I had the time that I did with my father in this life. Not everyone has an earthly father like mine, and therefore someone reading this might feel excluded. You never are! You never have been! Think of our heavenly parents and the Savior who have made possible our eternal progression. Think of the cost of that blessing! Truly Heavenly Father offers eternal life in the mansions of his kingdom for all of his children. What is keeping us from sharing that unparalleled blessing with our spiritual brothers and sisters? We all rejoiced in the prospect of this mortal experience. We knew of the joys and sorrows that would come in this life, and we knew that the Savior would be always there, always reaching and always knocking on our lives, especially in our trials where we can forge great faith in the Savior and our Heavenly Father’s plan for us. “Shall we not go on in so great a cause?”
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