I’ve had a lot of great moments speaking in my career to audiences totaling well into the hundreds of thousands of people, but at no time have I felt more like I was the right person at the right time than I did on Saturday when I brought the message to the memorial service for Arnold Forde. There were approximately 250 in attendance, roughly two-thirds of whom were probably not believers or wouldn’t let on that they were. The audience was dominated by politicians in that Arnold’s career was spent making many of them successful. Had he died closer to the height of his career there would have undoubtedly been people like Pete Wilson and Arnold Schwarzenegger there because of his role in their political accomplishments.
For a full hour we heard from five co-workers and politicians, a former mayor of Anaheim, and three family members. It was long, but entertaining in that many stories were told, most of them humorous, about how Arnold was a brash, ruthless and loyal person who would either love you or tell you off. Arnold made lots of enemies, and some of them were even there because they admired him nonetheless. Whatever you thought of Arnold, they told us he was one of the most unforgettable people you would ever come to know.
But very few of those people were aware of the Arnold I have gotten to know in the last two years since he has been bedridden. If they had heard about him, it was too hard to come around and see someone so imposing and bigger than life reduced to skin and bones and unable to move. But it was that Arnold that I was there to tell them about. It was that Arnold who, after rebelling against God for 40 years as a devout atheist, came back to faith in a big way, was baptized and even joined the church.
In the end, it was Arnold himself who had the last word. He had the message to give to everyone in attendance. It was a comment he had made to me early on in our relationship, and this, even before I realized he was coming back to faith. He had said he was worried about me, and I had thought that rather odd. Excuse me, aren’t you the one on your back, unable to do anything for yourself and still mad at God, and you’re worried about me?
“Why?” I finally asked, after thinking about the former. Then he said, “I’m worried about what you’re going to do when I am gone.”
I am still trying to fully decipher this message to me, personally, but as I was preparing my talk for the memorial service, I got a clear message from the Lord that this was not just for me, it was to be Arnold’s last words through me to everyone in attendance that day.
“Arnold is worried about you,” I said at the conclusion of my talk. “He’s worried about what you are going to do now that he is gone. Arnold has had two years to stare at the ceiling and change his mind about his relationship with God. You might not have that luxury.
“It’s no longer about Arnold — he’s gone, and he made up his mind — it’s now about you and me.
“Arnold’s a big man. He has made things happen all over the world, but this last one is more important than all of the rest, because it opened up the way to an eternity with God. Time to settle up. Reach out your hand to Jesus; He’s reaching out to you.”
“Arnold’s worried about you,” I repeated. “He wants to know what you’re going to do now that he is gone. Well …?”
Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. John 14:1-3