By Mike Evans
Despite the way my father abused and mistreated me when I was a boy, as an adult Christian I realized that I had to overcome my inner battles and make peace with him. He still exercised some power over me, and for a reason I failed to understand, his acceptance was important to me. Yet, no matter what I did, Dad withheld his approval. I could not get a word of affirmation from him to save my life, although I desperately wanted it. I didn't try to impress him with the people I had met or the places I had traveled. I knew that no matter what successes I might have in the ministry, he would never encourage me and never say, “I'm proud of you.”
He never called me “son.” Instead he called me “bastard” because he thought I was the result of adultery on my mother's part. Yet, for five and a half years, I sent him half of my paycheck to help him make his house and car payments and live. I never heard “thank you” from him. But I kept doing it because I wanted him to know that Jesus was real in my life. I wanted him to see that a real encounter with God could change his life forever, just as it had changed mine. He had gone to church for many years, but did not have a real relationship with God.
Most of all, I wanted to be free of his condemnation. The day finally came when I knew I had to confront my father. But our conversation was very different than the one I had imagined over and over through the years. Instead of demanding that my father apologize to me for his actions, the Holy Spirit prompted me to apologize to him. He reminded me that Exodus 20:12 tells children to honor their parents without saying a word about how their parents act toward them. Honor was not contingent on him being kind, loving, good, meek or repentant—it was dependent on me being his son.
So I went looking for my dad, and I found him in a bar, holding the hand of a young woman about the age of one of my sisters, trying to entice her to go home with him. When he saw me walk in, he shouted a warning to his bar buddies that a preacher had come in. He wasn't happy to see me, but I insisted on going home with him. He called me a moron more than once before we settled in his living room.
Then, in obedience to what I knew God was telling me to do, I got down on my knees in front of him and said, “Dad, God wants me to ask your forgiveness for the sins I've committed against you.” I begin began listing all the ways I had failed him as a son—not praying for him, being proud, being disrespectful behind his back, and not forgiving him. I did not mention his failings, the beatings I had received from his hand, or the curses from his mouth. Not once did I bring up his horrible abuse of my mother.
“Stop it!” he cried. “I can't take any more. I should be in prison for what I did to you. I have committed the unpardonable sin. I can never be saved! My home will be in eternal hell.” As I talked to Dad about Jesus and what He had done in my life, I saw Dad's hard exterior began to crack. He told me about his father's abuse of him when he was a boy. He wrapped his arms around me, and I felt his tears running down my neck.
God's grace and mercy filled me that day. My heart overflowed with compassion for a man I thought I could never forgive, much less love. I led him to Christ there in his living room that night. He had gone to church for many years, but he had never known the Lord. That was the beginning of a healing process between us that lasted until the day he died.