Jimmy lived most of life questioning why his dad left him at such a young age. But he was convicted and compelled by the gospel to love and pursue his estranged father in an effort to extend forgiveness and reconciliation.
My parents went to church, and my grandpa was the pastor of our church back home. During one of the mid-week services, my grandpa was up preaching and he asked the congregation, “If you died tonight, where would you lift your eyes up?”
And I started asking myself that same question. God started showing me how much of a sinner I actually was. He showed me, in a small way, my own depravity and my need for Him. I remember crying out to Him, “God, I want you to save me!”
Right then and there, He called me by name and He saved my soul.
After that, a really sweet thing took place (I call it sweet now, but it didn’t seem sweet at the time)…
A couple days later was a Sunday. My mom, my sister and my grandmother decided to go to the mall. Then, at the last second, I decided not to go with them. They came back later, and I remember looking out and seeing my mom crying in the back seat of the car. Then, I saw my grandma crying, and my sister crying.
My grandma walked up to me and told me that they had all caught my dad cheating on my mom with another woman at the mall.
I remember being so angry at that moment that I wanted to punch a hole through the light post that was standing next to me.
But then, in that same moment, I was reminded by the Holy Spirit that I’m different. I’m changed. I’m saved. And I actually need to forgive my dad.
But that just wrecked me! At the same time, I was so angry at my dad! I didn’t want to forgive him. He hurt my mom!
Still, at that moment, I realized that I needed to forgive him.
A little while later, he came back to the house. My mom and dad were arguing – screaming pretty loud. The only thing I could think to do was to pray.
I really wanted my dad to leave. I just didn’t want them to argue any more about this situation.
I mean… I was just in the sixth grade!
So, I ran to my bed and prayed. I asked God to just make him leave. Then I heard my doorknob turn and my bedroom door crack open. I heard my dad’s footsteps come through my door. The only thing I could think to do was to scream, “Daddy!”
He looked at me and the only thing I could say was, “Daddy, I love you.”
I said those words, and my own flesh and blood—my dad— looked me right square in the eyes, and just turned and walked out the house. He didn’t say a word.
That just broke my heart. I began to weep.
But, then God reminded me that I didn’t need my dad’s love.
I am loved by my Heavenly Father!
And that was all I needed.
All the way through high school, I continued to pray for my dad. When I got to college, I just stopped caring. In fact, I stopped praying about it.
I met a young man, who was in choir with me, and he asked me about my testimony. After I finished telling him my story, he asked me, “When was the last time you prayed for your dad? Actually, when was the last time you prayed for y’all’s relationship?”
I just sat back and said, “It’s been a long time.”
So, I went back to my dorm and said, “OK, Lord… I want to start praying for my and my dad’s relationship. I know it’s not good right now, and I want it to change. I want to know my dad more.”
After that, I began to call my dad. I’d call him almost every day. Many times, he didn’t answer the phone. And many times, he didn’t call me back. And there were many times when he would talk with me. And at the end of the call, I would say, “Alright Daddy… I love you.” And he wouldn’t say a thing. He’d just hang up the phone.
This happened for many years. But, I continued to pray for him and pursue him. I just kept running after him.
I actually wrote a couple songs about how I felt during that time, and how my mom felt, too. And, at one point, I actually sang one of the songs to him. I could hear my dad crying on the other end. I could feel the hurt within him. He began to repent to me. He said, “Son, I’m sorry. I’m sorry for all the things that I’ve done.”
When we were saying goodbye, I said, “Daddy, I love you.”
And he actually said, “I love you”, back to me.
It touched my heart so much to hear those words.
And after that night, he actually started calling me! He was calling me even more often than I was calling him. He even would tell me he loved me without me saying it at all.
I look at all this, and I can clearly see how God has reconciled our relationship, and I see the Gospel in that.
I can see, through this story, how Christ has continually pursued me.
Oddly enough, I’m glad that all this stuff happened. Because, if this hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t be the man who I am today. I would not know Jesus as well as I know Him if my dad had not done the things that he did. The times when my dad wasn’t there, I learned that my Heavenly Father was always there. He would always provide when my dad wouldn’t provide for me. When I needed somebody to tell me that he loved me, my Heavenly Father would show me how much He loved me in so many different ways!
At one point, I called my dad and said, “Daddy, I don’t want you to say a word. I’ve just got some things that I need to tell you. God has used you in a great way – to push me to want to know Him more. And, I’m closer to God because of you.”
The next day, my dad called me, and said, “Okay… it’s my turn. Let me tell you something, and I don’t want you to say a word…”
And he went on to say things that I had never heard him say before. He told me how proud he was of me. He told me how I pushed him closer to God.
I see now how God has used me to display, in a way, a part of the Gospel in my dad’s life.
I’m thankful that God has reconciled our relationship. And to this day, me and my dad are really close. I look forward to the day when he calls me to tell me that he is saved, and I’m not going to stop praying for that!
I want God to call him by name.
The Austin Stone Story Team is a community of artists who tell stories of gospel transformation. We are photographers, writers, editors, filmmakers, and musicians on a common mission to use our gifts for His glory.
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Because I am an advocate that stands up for those who have been victims of childhood abuse and….
Because I am a healed survivor of my own past of childhood abuse…
When these crimes are called out and discussed in a public forum, the offender alone should bear both the responsibility and the shame. These matters need to be discussed not only for prevention, but also for healing.
Victims need to be heard. They need to be believed. They need to know that what happened was not their fault. We bear witness to their suffering when we give them a voice.
I believe this will change.
As Ann Voscamp so adequately puts it, “Because People of the Church are to be those who stand up so safe places open up, who lead by always going lower, who expose and confront abuse everywhere they find it, so the hope of the Gospel can be of use anywhere it goes.
Because People of the Cross are to be witnesses for the suffering, and responders to the victims, and testifiers of Truth, no matter the cost, no matter the risk, because Christ is The Truth — and where there isn’t Truth, there isn’t Christ. Why ever hide or cover-up the Truth?”
And to those still walking in their victimhood:
Our wounds from childhood abuse bring messages with them…they have a common theme of “your worthless, you have no value, you are a flawed person, no one will love you, you are ugly” ….
And when those wounds were delivered to you with such pain, they felt true.
They pierced your heart.
So, you accepted the message as fact. You embraced the worthless verdict on yourself.
And it is a deep hole of darkness.
Those childhood vows are very dangerous things. They change the course of our life.
He will move into those heavily veiled places within our soul and be there with us in that place of pain and abuse… and deliver us and heal us from the past. I don’t know how He does it. But I can attest to the fact that He does.
Because he did for me!
To you precious abuse survivors reading this:
And He will heal you to the point that the past will not affect your future.
He will feed His flock like a shepherd: He will gather the lambs in His arms, He will carry them in His bosom and will gently lead those that have their young. Isaiah 40:11
Jesus I give myself to you. I give my life to you. I surrender me… totally and completely. Forgive all my hurtful ways. Forgive my self-protecting ways and all of my chasing after other comforters. Come and be my savior, healer, my love…
(If you are a survivor of childhood abuse and haven’t worked through the steps to healing please contact me for coaching on my home page or leave a comment here.)
I want to give you a few examples from former clients, with fictional names of course, of what I have come to recognize as a father wound…
There are many father’s that are physically available, but not emotionally. They satisfy the material needs for their families, but are incapable of fulfilling the need for intimacy and connection in their children.
‘Every man carries a wound. And the wound is nearly always given by his father.” ~ John Eldredge
All of these people I have talked about have a hard time relating to God as their Father…their “Abba, Daddy.”
I, too, for many years, had a hard time relating to God as Daddy– but more to Jesus as my constant companion. I was a victim of incest by my dad and spent my years growing up avoiding being alone with him. It is hard to relate to what an earthly dad should be like, or one who makes you feel safe when you are with him.
A father is one of the most important role models in our lives. To feel loved and accepted by your dad is vital to you having a healthy relationship with God and with others. Unfortunately, there are many of us who didn’t have that.
Does that mean we are exempt from having a healthy relationship with our loving God, the Father, if we didn’t have a Dad that was trustworthy? Of course not!
There is nothing impossible with God. We just have to be willing to do the work!
Some of our deepest wounds stem from a lack of intimacy with our earthly fathers.
If men don’t seek God’s healing from this wound they will likely repeat this pattern in their own lives with their children. If women don’t seek God’s healing from lack of intimacy with a safe Dad, they too, will repeat the patterns down through the generations of their families by choosing men that are like their Dads in order to somehow to fulfill her own needs of a dad by repeating the process.
But, good news…
But, the good news is, there are some steps you can take to find restoration for your broken heart. Your past does not have to dictate your future. Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted and to be everything we need!
Embracing the Father’s love is at the core of living the abundant life that Christ died for you to live.
As painful as it may be, you must re-visit the past and find where the gaps are. Go back to the times you felt rejected or hurt by your dad and face those painful memories. Maybe he didn’t protect you or keep you safe, or maybe he was never around. Whatever the case, write down any thoughts you may have. This is an important step towards resolving your pain.
“A Father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, He leads forth the prisoners with singing.” Psalm 68:5-6
Take a risk, open your heart and fully grasp the Father’s love for you. He is your ultimate Daddy, and He adoringly calls you His child.
“And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty.” 2 Corinthians 6:18
May the Lord guide you and comfort you as you surrender your father wound to Him, and may you be healed forever so that you can live a rich and satisfying life.
“So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when He adopted you as His own children. Now we call Him, ‘Abba, Father.‘” ~ Romans 8:15
Jefferson takes a short break away from his dad this week to share the story about how Rod actually became his dad… and how we ALL have the opportunity to become adopted by a Father far greater and filled with much greater wisdom and benefits than Rod or any other dad here on earth.