I remember the day I forgave my father like it was yesterday.
I was on the couch with tears streaming down my face as I told him of the years of disappointment and pain he caused. I had the opportunity to verbalize what I had been suppressing since I was a little boy, abandoned by his father. I finally told him how I really felt after all these years.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you what happened about a month before that day.
It was a Sunday afternoon. I was heading home from hanging out with some friends after church. It was a great morning followed by some much needed time to connect with new guy friends. I was relatively new to the church and just starting to feel planted.
As I was driving home, the phone buzzed in my pocket. I stared at it for a few rings. It was my dad. I didn’t really want to talk to him right then. I didn’t feel like going through the motions of small talk and telling him that I was fine and I was glad that he was fine and that everything is fine.
Just as I was about to send it to voicemail I felt something compel me to answer the call.
“Hello?” I answered. “Hey son, how are you?” he said in a cheerful voice. “I’m fine,” I muttered.
Here we go again. Why did I even pick up? I really wasn’t in the mood for pleasantries with my dad. I didn’t understand why after being absent for the majority of my life, he now wanted to be a part of my life. I was 28 years old and no longer a little boy whose heart leapt at the voice of his father.
I had forgiven him a long time ago. I had peace with it. I just didn’t feel like it was necessary to be friends with a man that I didn’t know.
The next words out of his mouth snapped me out of my inaudible sigh and roll of the eyes.
“Son, I accepted Jesus as my savior today.”
The rest of the conversation was a blur. I vaguely remember him sharing the story of how it all happened. But that was just background noise as those first words he spoke resonated in my head.
I probably should have shouted for joy but all I could say was “Wow, that’s great.”
He ended the phone call saying that he wanted to see me as soon as possible. He was anxious to confirm a date because he felt like God wanted him to share some things with me in person.
“Yeah, let’s do that.” I hung up the phone and drove home in silence. I was stunned.
The father I never knew just met the Father that replaced him when I was 9 years old.
About a month later my dad was in my house, sitting on my couch. We just came back from eating dinner and sharing our first beer as father and son. I peppered him with questions all night about what his life was like.
He told me stories I had never heard before. I found out that the first time he met my mom, he complimented her butt. He told me what it was like to be in the Army. I heard stories about his parents.
It was an emotional night and he hadn’t even brought up the main reason he came to see me.
Back in my apartment he stammered a bit before getting started. He began by saying that since he met God, he felt that he was being led to make things right in his life.
Then he came out with it. He wanted to give me an opportunity to tell him what I felt by his absence in my life. He wanted me to be honest and share everything that I was carrying.
He said he wasn’t here to apologize or make it right
–he just wanted to let me tell him how I felt.
My first response was to tell him that I had already forgiven him a long time ago. I told him that it was difficult growing up without him but when I got older, I made peace with it. I wasn’t angry with him.
But then something happened. As I began talking about it, all these memories flooded my mind. Tears welled up in my eyes and something inside me felt like it burst open.
I told him how much it hurt when he disappeared from my life. I told him that I always wondered if he didn’t want me as his son because he never sent for me in the summers. I told him that I longed for his approval when I got A’s on my report cards. I desperately wanted him to be there to coach my basketball team. I told him that I needed him and he abandoned me.
I don’t remember how long I went on but it all flooded out. He just sat there and listened. Tears filled his eyes but he never once defended himself. Never once made an excuse. He just took it all in. Then he cried with me.
I thought I had forgiven my father a long time ago but I realized I had just excused him.
When I finished unloading, he said that he would not even try to apologize for what happened. He said that simply saying sorry would not make it right. He just accepted it and admitted he was wrong.
It was then that I realized that after all these years I didn’t want an apology, I just wanted him to listen to me and admit that he was wrong.
That was when I forgave my father. And that was when I finally made peace with him. That day I began to let go of all the anger, bitterness and resentment I had held on to so tightly. Even the feelings I had pushed down and pretended I had dealt with.
That day I learned that forgiving him wasn’t just for his sake but for mine too.
Is there someone in your life you need to forgive?