Michael sat alone at the kitchen table, staring out his window into the cold rain. It was yet another of many lonely, tormented moments in his life, though possibly one of the last, when he would try once again to prayerfully make some sense of it all. Maybe here,…maybe now….while the tentacles of cancer squeezed out the vestiges of his life, possibly God would reveal to him why it was ending this way.
He had always thought of “natural love”, as being instant, immutable and unconditional within family. To him it represented the firm foundation of unity, the depth of which could only be increased or multiplied,….. never diminished. He had continuously loved and honored his own parents until their deaths, even when they disagreed with him; and always tried to respect the right of others to choose and exercise free thought apart from his control or influence. These were principles and precepts he held dear, the importance of which had somehow eluded some in his own household.
His decision to follow Christ and distance himself from spiritually hazardous activities had separated him from the social interests of his own children causing great division. When he met Jesus a transformation began in him. It was that, his own “Damascus experience”, a deep realization of the precious blood by which he was redeemed, that initiated a difference in him those years ago. Since that time, Michael’s eldest daughter Veronica, though herself professing a relationship with Jesus, had fostered an increasing resentment toward him, and a chasm daily widened between the two as they drifted off into separate worlds.
Veronica always possessed a strong sphere of influence over her younger siblings, especially in the years following the passing of their mother, and she was quick to use that influence to turn the others against their father. She had grown increasingly cruel and seized every opportunity or circumstance to ridicule or demean him to the others…..even her own dear children. Veronica purposely avoided Christian activities and gatherings, to further distance herself and her children from him, gravitating instead into the cauldron of worldly temptations, activities and involvements. She constantly accused Michael of hypocrisy and exclusiveness all because he refused to support or take part in the worldly lifestyle they had chosen to follow, and like the pied-piper, Veronica led the others deep into the same trappings of materialism.
After nearly twenty-five years of repeated betrayal, heartbreak, emotional cruelty and numerous failed attempts at contact and reconciliation, Michael grew weary of the struggle. He wanted the finality of peace, and if that meant a sentence of loneliness, it was a price he was now ready to pay. He sold the house he shared for over 30 years with his dear departed wife, left children and grandchildren behind and moved to a secluded place deep in Connecticut’s woods to live out his remaining days.
The revelation of his condition came less than a year after his move. It didn’t really take Michael by surprise; he knew there was a history of cancer in the family. In some ways he actually welcomed the coming end to his loneliness and hatred from his children. There was no one to tell anymore, because there was no one left who cared, and since the passing of his dear Carol, for Michael to die was only to gain. Yet he inwardly mourned the loss of relationships with the three children and nine grandchildren, causalities of Veronica’s slanderous back-biting and his own surrender in their long and bitter conflict. Now, once again, Michael sat pondering God’s meaning to it all,…. his total erasure from that family portrait.
After nearly an hour of prayer and contemplation, the sound of the rain grew distant, a warm glow filled the room and the constant pain that had so tortured his body over the past few weeks, melted away like the last remnants of winter snow. Reaching across the table he grabbed his Bible, pulled it over and on impulse opened it carefully. It’s pages parted to the book of Matthew at the tenth chapter. His eyes scanned down the page to verse thirty-six where the Spirit led him to read aloud:
“And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he who taketh not his cross, and followeth after me is not worthy of me.” (KJV)
God had indeed spoken. At that, Michael felt that great peace fall over him like a warm comforter, and for the final time in this sin-cursed world, he closed his weary eyes in prayer….… “Now I lay me down to sleeeeeeep.”
The telephone rang and rang and rang yet again. Finally, Michael’s answering machine switched on to take the call: “Hey dad,…it’s…… ….Veronica. Just been thinking maybe we should talk. Last night I really got to thinking about things, a..a…and I really need to speak with you…..Call me back, okay?….bye.”