Broadman & Holman
Growing up, my most difficult and confusing relationship was with my father. One of the few positive memories I have of him is the day he picked me up and let me straddle his broad shoulders while he carried me to the banks of the Red River, looking across the water toward Texas. We spent the entire day fishing and talking, just the two of us.
When I flash back on that scene now, it seems like an image I saw in a movie: father and son on a riverbank with fishing lines stabbed out over shining water Ė a perfect image of togetherness. But as soon as we got home with the few fish we had caught, Dad left for the local beer joint. He didnít return home until much later that night, drunk again.
Dad was generally a good man when he was sober, but those sober days were becoming fewer and further between. When he was drunk, little things often sent him into a rage. If he heard the water running while he was suffering from a hangover, he would explode into an abusive tirade, roaring threats and expletives against everyone in the house.
That was the regular tenor of our lives Ė Dad coming home drunk, acting verbally abusive and belligerent, and Mom pleading for him to stop. The tirade would continue until Dad passed out. When Dad sobered up, he would tell Mom he was sorry and would try to do better. But he never did.
When Dad left for Hawthorne, California where he had gotten a job working for Bethlehem Steel, he said he would send for us. In the meantime, Mom found a menial job working in a laundry.
She never gave up praying for Dad and she never tired of telling us kids that we could make something better of our lives, that God had good things in store for us.
My father was a negative role model, the kind of person I didnít want to be. My mother, on the other hand, had a loving and caring nature. She never let herself get down or depressed. Even though we had a hard life, Mom maintained a strong faith in God. She instilled that faith in her sons and kept us in church.
She believed in determination and patience; the determination to succeed in whatever you choose to do in your life and the patience to stick with it until the goal is reached. Her belief system shaped my character and became an integral part of my life. Momís faith became my own, and although I didnít know it at the time, I now realize my faith in God provided the core of my inner strength.
One of the most important spiritual moments of my life was when the world famous evangelist Billy Graham came to town for a crusade. I was excited to go to the crusade, simply because it was such an enormous event, but I really didnít expect to experience anything of significance in my life as a result. After all, I had committed my life to Christ and had been baptized as a boy when our family attended Calvary Baptist Church. But this was different. This was pure power.
I listened to the beautiful music as Cliff Barrows led the mass choir and the deep voice of soloist George Beverly Shea, and finally Billy Grahamís powerful words. I felt a tugging on my heartstrings. He explained that Christ had died on the cross in my place, that it really should have been me being punished by death for my sins. But Christ took my place. Now, by believing in him and believing that Jesus died and rose again from the dead, I could be forgiven of my sins and I could be saved forever.
When Billy Graham invited those who wanted to be forgiven of their sins and wanted to commit their lives to Jesus Christ to walk down front to the stage, I almost leapt to my feet. Whether my response was an intellectual assent to the gospel or a recommitment to the faith Iíd embraced as a child, I really canít say. All I know for sure is that from that night on, I knew my life was in Godís hands. I believed, as Mom frequently reminded me (and still does!), that God had a plan for me.
A very real transaction took place between me and God that night. I committed myself to follow him, no matter what, and he committed himself to me as my Savior and Lord. Over the years, I havenít always held up my end of the bargain, but Iím thankful to say, he has never reneged on his.
Excerpted and adapted from chapters 3, 4, & 5 of Against All Odds: My Story by Chuck Norris with Ken Abraham. Copyright 2004 by Carlos Ray Norris. Broadman & Holman Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee.