From the men’s retreat – A restored relationship of a father & son

Shared by Robin Carr…

When I was four years old, my father was supposed to come home early and take me to a Sunday School party that afternoon. He didn’t show up.  There was no explanation when he finally got home to our apartment.  I don’t remember him ever going to church with us, just my grandmother, my mom, and me.  When I was five, I remember a godly pastor that prayed over communion as he served the elements in such a way that I knew that it was real.  He really believed and I knew it was true.

Ages eight to ten were punctuated during the winter with my Dad going off somewhere to pick oranges or something.  He just disappeared.  I wasn’t sure how long he would be gone or if he was coming back.  My Mother said she didn’t know.

I accepted Jesus at age 11, knowing in my heart, His life was real for me and in me.  But there was little follow-up with my faith. My attention was occupied by the constant tension in my parent’s marriage: anger, some drinking, some verbal hostility.  On one occasion, I wanted to have a party and invited some friends to ride bikes at our house.  I needed my Dad to provide transportation, but he didn’t show up.

My turmoil escalated when my Dad left for the last time; I had just turned thirteen.  Even though the legal process of divorce started later and dragged on from that fall for another two years, the reality for me was that my parents had split.  It was depressing and foreboding.  I will never forget the day the sheriff served my Mom with divorce papers.  That brick word ”divorce” produced shock that gave way to crying the most bitter tears of desperation that would not – could not – be consoled.  My already shaky world was ripped sideways and the bottom dragged off.  Trust was broken, without hope of being mended.  There wouldn’t be a next time, good or bad.  I knew it was the end.

My hurt and fear gave way to anger, and anger to resentment, and resentment to intense hatred after the reality of divorce had sunk in.  My father would come back to the house where we lived with my grandparents to talk.  My mother wouldn’t let him in out of fear.  The verbal confrontations were always angry.  My hatred began to grow, feeding on my mother’s fears and on my disdain for my father’s shallowness.

In high school I was a social misfit and rather geeky.  Academics were the only thing I could manage some success in while trying to control my emotions.  My anger and hostility caused a few “scenes.”  Money was scarce so there were a lot of things I didn’t have or couldn’t do, and I blamed my father.  Managing to graduate with good grades (but not good enough to get a scholarship) I was accepted at a small Christian College, Belhaven, in Jackson, Mississippi.  My father tried again at least twice to contact me during college but I steadfastly refused.

God’s provision began to send dissolving drops of water on the rough rock of my heart in the required Bible courses at Belhaven.  It took lots of water to open up the hard stone.  During this long journey many times there seemed to be little hope and much despair.  But the Lord highlighted a verse for me and enlightened my understanding from Psalm 27 – “I would have fainted unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” 

I would have indeed given up if I hadn’t realized that I was in the land of the living with people who genuinely believed in Jesus.  One Sunday a friend’s father was visiting him at Belhaven and, as he was leaving, offered to drive us to church.  As my friend and his Dad said good-bye I saw from the back seat real love between father and son.  It hurt.  But it opened the eyes of my heart.  Still, I was too bitter to consider contacting him then.

Despite the progress, I still carried emotional baggage and a I failed to graduate from college.  Next came the Army.  My deep anger came out as hostility toward authority that I considered unjust or incompetent.  So I flunked out of OCS.  In the military and afterward at work I had no friends other than job acquaintances.  But somehow I hung on.

I had been asking God for real friends and He provided them in Macon, Ga. where I started a new job.  At church I discovered a group of Christian young adults who were pioneering an inner city ministry to troubled and transient youth.  They welcomed me warmly.

I attended a David Wilkerson Crusade a few months after I moved to Macon.  Wilkerson spoke to youth, urging them to do whatever it took to get in touch with their parents and tell them “I love you!”  He spoke to parents to get in touch with their sons and daughters and tell them “I love you!”  No matter what: go home and tell them; call them long distance and tell them; do whatever you have to do to tell them.  He was speaking to youth and parents, but at age 29 I heard God speaking to me!  I just couldn’t call my Dad, but I had to.  I stewed for over a week.  I got the number from information.  I stewed more.  I finally called him.

“Hello?… Dad, this is Robin. I called to say that I love you!”  A very long pause, and then “ I love you, too.”  We didn’t talk long.  I called again in a few days.  He planned to visit.  So I saw my Dad for the first time in sixteen years.   It was strange, sort of, and yet so right.  Between the call and that day meeting for lunch, God had been working inside of me unlimited forgiveness towards my Dad for all the things I held against him.

I knew he needed to hear my unconditional release of anything I had against him. I HAD THE FAR GREATER NEED TO FORGIVE HIM TO DESTROY THE PRISON IN MY LIFE OF MY OWN MAKING.  “Father forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.”   I released him from the debt that I claimed he owed me.  Thus I become free and so did he.  So began a new journey to get to know my Dad.  How ironic that a 29-year-old man is getting to know his Dad.

The next several years were like a long conversation as we worked at becoming acquainted.  I found out that my love of history and enjoyment in reading history was something that he enjoyed.  We both loved maps and calendars, too.  That was kind of cool to find those common interests.

As a man I could now allow God to grow me up. In some ways I was still a kid.  I needed six more years of maturing to be ready for marriage – observing what a real family looked like, trusting in godly friends’ advice and learning to worship by experience.  I was learning to live as a man truly alive.

God had been working in my dad’s heart during those years we were separated and he had come to a saving relationship with Jesus.  That offered immense satisfaction and comfort for me.  I began to tell my Dad I had been doing and how much I wanted Diane to be my wife; that God had told me she was the one.  Although he didn’t say much at that moment, I think that bowled him over.  He encouraged me to do everything in my power to make her my wife.

What a rich blessing it was to have my father at our wedding.  I know it blessed him and it blessed me to have his approval and blessing as I married.  And then he was there for our first son Nathan’s early years.  All of this worked in me a deep caring for “family.”  The three-part woven rope of relationship of a man and a woman with Jesus as the strong central cord has kept me from bad choices to run away when things are difficult, or to find comfort somewhere else or some other way outside family.

God has richly blessed me in this restoration.  I have been liberated from my anger, hurt and resentment.  Restoration and Freedom!  A man fully alive!  I share this with you so you’ll know I am here to help you with similar struggles.  The pain of a broken relationship with a father is real.  I’ll be happy to meet with you, listen to you and pray with you through the process of forgiveness, healing and hopefully restoration.

“I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him until that Day.”