“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
My Dad was born on 29th November 1905 and my Mum on December 2nd 1906. They married in July 1929. Many years ago, when he was a young married man, my father had an unpleasant brush with spiritualism, which unfortunately had the effect of putting him off churches of any kind for the remainder of his life – right up to just before he died. My Dad didn’t differentiate between one church or another: whether they were Church of England, Catholic, Jehovah’s Witnesses or whatever, they were all tarred with the same brush as far as he was concerned!
Having said that, he was a very loving and caring father, and one of the things that I constantly thank God for is the fact that I came from a very stable and loving home background. My parents didn’t spoil me, but on the other hand they weren’t over-strict either. They were just right. Middle of the road. Although my mother was a Sunday School teacher when she was young, when she met my Dad she never went near a church (except for christenings, weddings and funerals) because my Dad wasn’t interested in going to one! But they had an ideal marriage. They were totally devoted to each other, and during my entire life I can rarely recall any occasion when they had a cross word with each other. They were also married for 55 years.
When I became a Christian in 1979 (I can’t remember exactly when, as my ‘rebirth’ was a very slow one, with old false ideas gradually receding and making way for ideas grounded in God’s truth), the first thing that occurred to me was that neither of my parents would make it to Heaven, as they had rejected Christ. For five years I constantly prayed that someone would witness to them – but no-one ever did! For some time my Dad had been dragging one leg quite badly, and it was thought that this was due to a mild stroke he may have had during his sleep. For many years this condition remained the same.
On Fathers’ Day in June 1984 my wife and I were round at my parents’ house, when my father was suddenly taken ill. He had severe chest pains that he’d never had before. We phoned for a doctor and they sent an ambulance. He was taken to the cardiac unit at Southend General hospital.
Up to then, no-one had ever witnessed to my Dad for Christ and I wondered if the Lord was perhaps saying to me: ‘the buck stops here Graham, tell him!’ It was 9 O’clock in the evening and my Dad shared a room with two other men. I felt that the Lord had given me a picture of two immensely long trains running very slowly along adjacent tracks, side-by-side. Whilst the two trains are going on adjacent tracks the occupants could simply jump from one train to the other, but we cannot go backwards or forwards on the train. However, there comes a point at which the two tracks diverge: one track leads to paradise and the other to a precipice. We automatically start off on the wrong train – the one that leads to the precipice. The point at which the tracks diverge is the point in time at which we die. After that point we can no longer jump across to the other train. People further back in the train haven’t reached the divergence yet (they are still alive) but those who have passed the divergence are those who have died. They have already made their choice and cannot go back.
As we sat there in that hospital ward, I asked my father if he knew how I had become a Christian. “It was through someone you met at work wasn’t it?” he asked. I then described to him the picture that the Lord had given me of the two trains. “Yes, when you get to my age you start thinking about that sort of thing,” he said feebly. The following day my mother and I visited my Dad, and I gave him a small booklet by David Watson called “Start a new life”. A booklet which explains in very simple, concise terms what Christianity is about. About how the only way to Heaven is through personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. How Jesus is the only way to “bridge the gap” between God the Father and ourselves. When we visited my Dad on Tuesday there was a noticeable change in him. He was all ‘fired up’ and enthusiastic about what he’d read in the booklet! “That was terrific, I’ve given it to your Mum to read” he said, with considerable enthusiasm. I believe to this day that the Holy Spirit came upon my Dad when he read that booklet. On Wednesday my mother and I visited again, but were told that my Dad had just collapsed and that they had a team of people working on him. A few minutes later he died. He had been sitting up in bed and had suddenly keeled over. My Dad was a person who feared death, yet his passage from life to death was almost instantaneous.
My mother later told me that on that Fathers’ Day, when my Dad got the chest pains, my Dad went out into the kitchen and was sitting there with his eyes closed. He appeared to be praying. That was unusual as my Dad was a person who normally had no religious belief.
I believe that we are all spiritually different. Some of us are more ‘spiritually aware’ than others. When my mother and father first went to a spiritualist meeting many years ago, the spiritualists showed great interest in my father, but no interest at all in my mother! They apparently were convinced that he was psychic. It became apparent to me that my father, who was a very highly strung and nervous person, was unable to cope with the dark spiritual forces that he experienced at that meeting . Put another way, I believe what he experienced there scared him. On one occasion he felt that he had been given a ‘message’ that a friend’s wife had fallen ill and died. He visited that person with a bunch of flowers, only to discover that she was alive and very healthy. To say that he felt very foolish would have been an understatement. I believe that this in combination with the dark spiritual forces he experienced, caused him to turn his back on spiritualism for ever. Certainly, from that moment on, my Dad never attended another spiritualist meeting. But unfortunately he also turned away from any kind of religion at all. However, perhaps my father’s ‘spiritual awareness’ also made it easier for the Lord to reach him. I believe that my Dad became a Christian two days before he died. He was 78.
I hope this may be of some encouragement to others whose loved ones do not know the Lord.