“I want a real chaplain who believes in a real God and a real hell…your uncertainty is making things worse…I need someone who will look me in the eye and tell me how to find forgiveness because I am running out of time!!!”
My story -
When I visited my dying grandpa, I was in the role of a chaplain of sorts. It was incredibly awkward…this is the grandpa who modeled for me stability, love, and strength. I admired the man more than any other. He was full of humility and would speak ill of no one. I cry now thinking about him. I loved him. Anyhow, he wasn’t a church goer and believed that all “good” people essentially would end up in heaven. He also said that he has always sought to live his life according to the 10 Commandments. While a teen, I would simply nod– who was I too challenge my grandpa?
Well, as my grandpa was ill and not knowing if this would be the last time I would ever see him alive, I felt a “burning in my bones” that couldn’t be constrained. I could not watch him die while simply nodding my head in affirmation to his thoughts of being good and going to heaven. I looked him in his eyes and suggested that He ought to love the lawgiver more than the law. I told him about Jesus. His eyes watered. He was the most decent man I had ever known and who was I to convince him that he was a depraved sinner in risk of hell fire? I had to, for the sake of his soul, I had to…I wanted to. His watery eyes then looked hopeful as I pleaded with him to believe upon the work of Jesus for his salvation. I held his hand and prayed with him.
My grandpa Norman Hogaboam ended up returning home. I visited him and he asked me to do his funeral when he passed on. I looked down and agreed to do it, holding back tears. He was at peace with death. He died shortly after. I did his funeral, crying the whole time, and was able to share the hope I had spoken to him about and his acceptance of the lawgiver. My tears would have otherwise been full of guilt and remorse, even to this day. I can’t help but think that some other chaplain would have simply nodded in affirmation and patted him on the back for a life well lived…comforting him into hell.
I look forward to seeing my grandpa again and am grateful that God granted me the strength and boldness to share the Gospel with him.