The devil had a head start, with 60 years of my father’s life under his belt. There was no reason to think Dad would make any lifestyle changes at that age. But God had a plan, and I was about to experience one of His greatest spiritual transformations.
I was a freshman at a small college in western Michigan. My dorm room was in the basement of a rented house with the dean of the school and his family. With their six children running and screaming overhead, it wasn’t always quiet.
After lunch one day at the campus dining commons, I went to my room to study. There was a silence like never before, as if no one was there. But someone was there. A divine presence was about to take center stage.
The reason for this house call? It was the beginning of my quest for my father’s conversion. The purpose of God’s visit was to introduce me to prayer and fasting.
Fasting? I had no prior experience. I was a freshman in Bible college, and prayer and Bible reading were still in their infant stage. I was about to see what a dad’s son could do with the help of the Son of God.
God went to work first. Realizing the “dorm” was vacant during the lunch period, His voice helped me to set aside every Tuesday and Thursday to pray and fast for my father. It was my first experience with the practice of fasting.
Don’t think Satan never tried to tempt me by dangling the image of Twinkies in front of my face, but each week I grew more determined to see my father give his heart to the Lord. Days turned into weeks, weeks into months, and the burden I had was greater than the surpassing thought of time spent praying or my need for food. The lines carved in my face from weeks of tears were a reminder of my love not only for my dad, but also for my Savior, who inspired me.
Before my father’s conversion, he would sit in his car in the church parking lot, waiting for my mother to get out of church.
One of my friends gave me a tract explaining the Christian plan of salvation in simple terms. I was somewhat reluctant to share this with my father because he read with difficulty. But while visiting my parents one weekend, I handed the tract to my father and said, “Read this, Dad. It’ll do you good.”
After months of praying, fasting, and a 10-cent tract, the seeds sown were starting to come to fruition. Dad told me how he would park downtown, reach into the glove box of his car, and pull out that tract. He read it so often that the pages were barely connected. He underlined many passages of interest, some with a small notation: “This is good.”
As I continued to pray and fast, I wondered how long God expected me to rehearse this exercise until I actually spoke to my dad about the plan of salvation. Again, I hesitated because I wasn’t sure how far I should go with my own witness to Dad. God never gave me the chance to spell out the good news; He was always a step ahead of me.
Before the school year ended, my father gave his life to the Lord. When he started to read that tract, God started to talk to him. And Dad met the Master.
He told me how God had graciously forgiven him. I could see the remnants of 60 years of sorrow washed by God’s amazing grace. And what followed was truly amazing!
The next step of faith caused me to question God’s tactics again. He spoke to me and said, “Get your dad his own Bible.” I had good reason to ask why. Would he be able to comprehend such a masterful piece of literature? His reading ability was limited by his lack of education.
I had obviously forgotten to whom I was speaking, and He was about to show me who the real Teacher was. God’s message to me: “Get the Bible; I’ll take care of everything.”
I purchased a Bible with large print, making it easier for my father to see the words. He had an upstairs room in his home, where often he went to play his harmonica. But something else happened in that room. Those fingers that often gripped and warmed his harmonica found a new object to warm: the Bible.
Here’s the miracle: I’ll never forget when Dad said to me, “God is helping me to read better.” Not only was the Bible becoming his textbook for Christian living, it was his textbook for learning new words. It was performing a dual role. I had no doubt the Holy Spirit became his master teacher. Dad’s Bible had scripture after scripture underlined, as if he were studying for a test.
Before my father’s conversion, he would sit in his car in the church parking lot, waiting for my mother to get out of church. Now he sat next to her in a church pew. That seating arrangement continued for the next 30 years.
Mom and Dad are both gone now, but if my freshman year at college was for that one purpose—to see my dad accept the Lord—it was worth every tear. As a reminder of my father’s conversion, I take out his well-used Bible and review all those underlined scriptures. Some have that little notation: “This is good.” I have to agree.
Douglas Maxson lives in Cedar Springs, Michigan, where he is a member of the West Michigan Christian Writers’ Critique Group, which has inspired him and educated him about writing.