HOPE FOR TODAY: Choosing to love and forgive my dad
This is not a February valentine column about a love between a man and woman. Rather, it is about a complex love between a father and son.
Recently, my wife and I watched “Ragamuffin,” a movie about the life of Rich Mullins, a musical prodigy, and the difficult relationship he had with his verbally and emotionally abusive father. It reminded us of another movie, “I Can Only Imagine,” about the life of singer, Bart Millard, and the difficulties he too had with his father, who physically abused him.
The movies connected with audiences because, unfortunately, so many have stories of broken relationships with their dads. I had a difficult one with my father. He was a pastor and my parents had four children, of which I am the youngest. He was a complicated man who had a strained relationship with nearly every member of our immediate and extended family. On one occasion, when I shared with him that God had called me into the ministry, I mistakenly assumed his support. Instead he stated, “You’re going to need to go to college and you weren’t a very good student. I don’t know how you’re going to make it.” From that moment until I left for college, a year and a half later, my dad was the greatest challenge I faced in leaving to prepare for a career in ministry. The day I left home was one of the darkest days of my life. I was so angry. I cried, screamed and pounded my steering wheel from Colorado to Kansas.
But that day of despair turned to hope by the providence of God. One of my first classes was Pastoral Counseling. Every day, it seemed as if Dr. Larry Fine was talking directly to me about my hurt, anger and unforgiveness toward my dad. That semester started me on a 26-year journey toward learning to love my father. That journey reached a milestone in my 30s. As my dad and I talked on the phone and came near the end, it became quiet. Silence. Then I realized my dad was still there, but he was unable to speak. He was weeping. Eventually, he gathered himself and whispered, “I love you son.” Then I heard a click. It became the first memory of my father telling me he loved me on his own. It was a powerful moment.
On Nov. 13, 2017, my father suddenly died of pancreatic cancer. When he passed away, I had no regrets. There was nothing but peace in my heart. Years earlier, I had forgiven him and accepted him as he was, not as I wanted him to be. My father did not make it easy. Even so, the Scripture says, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense” (Proverbs 19:11). By God’s grace, He continually enabled me (though sometimes I failed) to be slow to anger and quick to show love by overlooking his faults.
There are too many who are living with anger, unforgiveness or even hate toward their dads. If that is you, you do not need to live that way anymore. You have no control over your father. He will face God for what he has done, but you – you have a choice. Your anger and unforgiveness is a terrible sin against God and is destroying you. Stop it! Lay down your pride and defiance. Humble yourself and ask God for His divine help to love and forgive. Break the chains!
A prayer for you to pray:
“Lord God, I pray for the readers that are angry toward their dad. The things their father has done has caused great pain and division. Enable them to forgive, to release their father to you. To accept and love him just as he is. Do for them, what they cannot do for themselves. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”