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Spiritual Journey

Something's Missing

From Shout It From the Housetops
By Pat Robertson

Things just didn't seem to be adding up. My father, as U.S. Senator from Virginia and Chairman of the Banking and Currency Committee, was one of the most powerful men in the nation. I had a proud Southern heritage -- honor grad. from military prep school, Golden Gloves boxer, Phi Beta Kappa at Washington and Lee, Marine combat officer in Korea, law degree from Yale, trouble-shooter for the W. R. Grace Company in South America, and now in the electronic component business with some of my old law school buddies. And on top of it all, 1956 was an election year, and I was chairman of the Stevenson-for-President campaign headquarters on Staten Island. Yet suddenly it all seemed empty. What was the matter with me?

God Has a Purpose for Your Life

I sat there, looking absently at the ceiling and hearing Dede moving about in the kitchen. Another of those strange feelings that had been clouding up my thoughts with increasing frequency for the past year settled over me. God has a purpose for your life. An inaudible voice seemed to be speaking in the deep recesses of my mind.


The only other person I knew who really felt this way was my mother. In her long, involved, and often preachy letters from Lexington, she constantly reminded me she was praying for me. "Pat, God has a plan for your life, and you will never be happy until you are in the center of that plan."

God? Who was He, really? I had joined our Southern Baptist Church in Lexington as a boy -- just like all the other boys. But the experiences had been primarily social, not spiritual. Time was spent in Sunday school and church, but I never did really understand what the church was all about. It had been so easy to drop away from it when I left home.

Is Life Really so Futile?

Dede poured me a drink and then returned to the kitchen to make the last-minute preparations for dinner. We had met at Yale where she was working on her master's degree in nursing, and we had married before I finished school. Yet, even in marriage I was so burdened with the futility of life that at one point I had actually contemplated suicide.

After graduation I had taken the New York bar exam, but my heart was not in it, and I had failed. My father was perplexed, heartbroken. "Pat, you've always made your mark; there's been nothing out of your reach. Now you fail the bar exam. What's wrong?" I doubted seriously if I could ever explain to Dad the disillusionment I felt about life. I had tried pleasure, philosophy, a profession -- nothing satisfied. I lived with a nagging feeling I just didn't belong anywhere. Life was empty.

The only real contact I had with any purpose in life came through Mother's letters. She was lonely and wrote often. Dad stayed in Washington during the week, getting home only on weekends. But Mother was a gracious, charming woman who kept mostly to herself and God. She bombarded us with Gospel literature until Dede felt that she was a religious fanatic, and I tossed the letters aside. Yet I knew they were not empty forms, but an extension of the very life she lived.

God Reveals His Purpose

Late one night after Dede had put Tim in the little upstairs bedroom, she joined me on the sofa in the front room. She was putting on fresh pillowcases before we pulled out the sofa bed for the night, and I blurted out, "You know, I really feel God wants me to go into the ministry." I waited for her reaction. There was none. "Well, what do you think?" "I think it might be fun," she said, sitting down beside me. "Maybe you could get a nice church, and I could sit behind a beautiful silver tea service and entertain. We could have a big old manse with rooms to spare. It sounds exciting."

Dede looked at me. "I guess if you're going to think seriously about going in the ministry, we ought to start going to church and find out what it's all about," she ventured. It was a good idea, and for the last several Sundays we had been visiting various churches. Since I was a Baptist, we started out there. On our way home from church that first Sunday I asked Dede, whose background was Roman Catholic, what she thought of the service. "I'm puzzled," she said. "Why did that man get up in the middle of the service and start blowing that horrible horn?" "Oh, that was just a trumpet solo," I explained. "What did you think of the sermon?" "It wasn't a very good sermon either," she said. "I thought Catholics were the only ones who read out of books. He read the whole thing. But that horn was enough for me," she said, shuddering. "Let's try someplace else next week."

The next week we attended a Moravian Church. It was Communion Sunday, and they had the "right hand of fellowship." In fact, they had it about six times when, at a secret signal during the service, everyone got up and started shaking hands all around the room. It was a friendly spirit, but I glanced over at Dede, and the bewildered expression on her face convinced me we should keep looking.

The following week we attended an Evangelical Free Church, and for the first time felt we might belong. The minister believed and preached the Bible. This made an impact on me, for I had been reading the Bible daily for the last year. In fact, on several occasions I had opened the Bible and had Scripture verses almost leap out at me as answers to my prayers. Dede said she enjoyed the services -- as much as any pregnant woman can who has to hold a child on her lap -- and we decided we would stick it out there. It was this minister who had come to call.

You Can't be Serious

"You're kidding," one of my business associates said when I told him I was going to get out of business and enter the ministry. "What for?"

"I don't know," I answered. "I just have a feeling I should do something good for mankind."

"You mean you're going to become a priest or something?" he said unbelieving. "What about your booze? Your salty language? And those cigars?"

"I didn't say I was going to resign from the human race," I grinned. "But somebody's got to help this world out of the mess it's in, and I don't see where I'm making much of a contribution peddling electronic devices."

A month later, in early April 1956, I went home to Lexington to tell my mother of my decision.

I was sitting at the kitchen table while she prepared dinner, and her reaction came pretty much as a shock. "Pat, something's wrong. I don't think you have the slightest idea what you're talking about."

"But Mother, I thought this would be the thing that would please you most."

"It does please me, Son," she said, wiping her hands on a paper towel and sitting down across from me. "But how can you go into the ministry until you know Jesus Christ? You know how I know that you don't know Him? Because you don't talk right. You never mention His name.

"You've got to accept Him as Lord of your life, Pat. Unless you do, you're going to be just as spiritually empty a minister as you are a businessman. You cannot fill your emptiness by trying to do the work of God. It's like trying to fill a bottomless bucket. What you need is a new bucket. You need to be born again."

Hidden Truth Begins to Surface

After dinner we sipped coffee as she repeated the same line I had heard since childhood: "The pulpits of our nation are filled with men just like you. They want to do good for mankind. They want to help people, but they're doing it in their own power, and that's worse than nothing. Jesus said, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh to the Father but by me.' There's no use going into the ministry, Pat, unless you've first surrendered your life to him."

I returned to New York the next day, still smarting under Mother's dogmatism. But deep in my inner spirit I felt that she was talking about something essential, something still hidden from me.

A week later I came in from work, and Dede handed me a note. "You got a phone call from this man in Philadelphia. He wants you to call him back."

I glanced at the note and saw the name: Cornelius Vanderbreggen. It was a name that was to change my life.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
—Philippians 4:13

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