Day 11 – My Dad’s Transformation
Today’s thought is shared by John Irby…
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, & his righteousness; & all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)
Robert Durrance Irby was born out-of-wedlock in Florida on June 14, 1921. His father was an immigrant from Ireland, who came to America for a new start, but he didn’t stick around for his son’s birth. Not that he had an option, as he died in a bus crash before his son was born. Robert started life on the wrong side of the tracks & not too long after his birth, his mother, met & married a man named Gerald Sapp. They started a family but Mr. Sapp was a bit of a sap, & didn’t want “the bastard boy.” So Robert was bounced around to live among relatives & in foster homes. As he grew older he would also spend some nights in crash pads with others who, like him, were unwanted & had no place to go. Robert didn’t have an easy early life & wasn’t a model child. He “served time” in the Civilian Conservation Corps, followed by time in the Marines, but he had still yet to become the man he would one day be. His wild ways continued with his “Simper Fi” buddies. When not on military duty, he worked as a poker shill, paid by the house to win money for a gambling joint in Mojave, California. As a plant or stooge, he never disclosed his cozy house relationship with his fellow players. He typically gave others the impression he was one of them, a neutral card player, but he was secretly a “house employee.” He met my mother (a maid on the base) & she was eventually instrumental in getting him out of his sinful life. For nearly the first 27 years he lived he concentrated on daily survival & doing what he wanted to do, when he wanted to do it, regardless of the consequences.
He was living the life of a prodigal son to God. But the time finally came for him to realize that while he was a survivor, he was spiritually dead. He knew he was living in sin, & needed to be reborn & serve the only father he would ever really know – God. When my dad died at the age of 85, he had been a faithful child of God for more than 55 years. His life story is similar to many others in the Bible. It is simply amazing how God chooses his sons & daughters & uses them in His service in His time frame. For whatever reason, he was chosen by God as one of His earthly servants. & he decided he would seek out other potential members for the body of Christ through ministry. He wanted to help the less fortunate, like he had once been. He developed a deep need to be an example for others. He is an example of how it is never too late to turn to The Lord.
So Robert D. Irby became in life & still is, even in death, an amazing example of the diversity of people the Lord selects to do His will. God found him & used him despite his past. He was a man on a spiritual journey. His personal faith never seemed shaken to the point of breaking because he lived his faith all day…every day. My dad was a hard worker and a smart man, even though he wasn’t formally educated. I learned much from him; one of the best lessons was to show respect for all people. He warned me that I should never let him catch me treating people without proper respect. He told me to speak to the garbage collector the same as I would to a teacher or doctor. He taught me that God created all people equal, even if they appeared different in skin color, language, native culture or whatever.
Lord, thank you for the examples you put into our lives, and I pray that all of us will be Godly examples to all of those around us. In Jesus Name, Amen