Dad lay in the hospital bed.

“Go home to your family,” he told me. “I don’t know how long it will take.”

Kissing him and telling him one more time that I loved him, (his response was always to thank me for saying those words), I drove the 400 miles to home, to my husband and child.

My mother and brother took Dad to the modest home we had all lived in for decades and for the next month he lay in his bed, wasting away, his dying taking longer than he expected. Towards the end he dreamed.

In a lucid moment, Dad told Mother and Neil of a particularly vivid one.
He dreamed he had started drinking again. He dreamed he had walked from his death bed, somewhere, haunting a familiar honky tonk, and drank. Perhaps he dreamed of Old Crow, straight from a half pint, for at his worst when he would drink for days, that was his drink of choice. So vivid this dream that as my mother lay next to his skeletal frame she whispered to him that it wasn’t so, doing her best to convince him that it was a dream and nothing more. He hadn’t the wherewithal to even rise from his bed, let alone travel to a bar, she told him.

“The devil never gives up,” my dad said to her and towards Heaven, still present in mind at that moment and not dreaming. “I wanted to go to Heaven sober and here I am, wasted and dying and the devil would still cheat me of my sobriety, if even in a dream.”

This wasn’t the first time I heard my Dad speak of the devil, although testifying of Satan from his deathbed was one of the more powerful testimonies I had heard from him. Dad was a lifelong adherent to the power that evil can perpetrate and it was his personal recognition that the very entity that wielded power during Christ’s temptation did so to him.

No red suited, forked tail, pitchfork wielding cartoon character be the entity I am referring to here. I speak of the force that as one source puts it, is a roaring lion looking to devour you.

Heck, Janet, you say to me, you really believe there’s a devil? You being a scientist and all? I can tolerate your belief in a higher power, especially if you don’t get too religious, but evil, the devil, really?

Actually, I’m of late quite convinced that from a science kind of thinking, the greatest reason to believe in God is that if He isn’t, there is no good way to explain the factual evidence of evil. And let me tell you, evil we have, here on our little blue planet in the middle of nowhere universe. Fueled by a beautiful evolutionary power, earthly humanity appears uniquely capable and boundless in our propensity to do the vilest things, within ourselves and against others. If there isn’t such a thing as a devil, and he’s probably happy you think of him as funny red buffoon if you think of him at all, we are at a loss for explanation for the evil within us.

Let’s say you use the argument that you can’t understand a God who allows the suffering of a child stricken with cancer (a question that God is okay with you exploring if I understand Him any at all), then you can’t stop there. He expects you to continue your query and ask who is to blame for a predator who rapes and abuses children or a woman who destroys her family by choosing to drink herself into oblivion.

About twenty years ago I went to a lecture of the now famous atheist, Richard Dawkins. He was a handsome man and an eloquent speaker. At the time I heard him speak he wasn’t quite the aggressive, angry atheist he is now. He, like you and me, has been seeking to understand the role of what we know and what we don’t know and he has come down firmly on the side that God is merely a delusion. Being highly intelligent he has formulated or borrowed some science theories that can explain why we do kind and nice things, even sacrificial things. With evolution as the ‘god’ that can do these things he tackles the problem of evil. Christianity and Islam are evil he says and his facts are the horrible events through history that have been perpetrated by the church and faith. But as a world famous scientist and one who must, or at least should be seeking to know the truth, his argument is strangely narrow in perspective. He’s cherry picked his facts, for he has failed to consider that there are supreme atrocities through the annals of human history, some based on science, that have been as evil as anything a human might commit. Hitler’s desire to create a superior race would fit into this category. The interesting thing is that Hitler’s scientific argument marches right in step with Dawkins ideas about evolution, survival of the fittest, but who in their right mind would presume to know who is fittest and who else in their right mind would sanction the evil and torture that Hitler and those who supported him, engaged in.

Inescapably, we are back to the devil.

Evil is real.

The Devil or whatever you want to call it is a power that resists scientific explanation, evolutionary reason, or human progress; we are left to accept it’s reality, both  from factual history and from experiences, even in the small things such as a the devil’s meddling in a dying man’s dream of the loss of sobriety.

But so is God. Real that is. And he has plans to prosper me, and you. We are made in His image, which I’ve been thinking is why we have free will, the ability to choose, and we have access to the power of Christ and we can overcome the devil.

That devil, he can make me do it, but only if I let him.