At the CCDA Conference last week, I shared my story of the reconciliation that occurred with my father before his passing. You can see the video on the youtube channel. One of the participants of the conference came to me and stated his desire to reconcile with his dad. Below is an excerpt from his blog about the reconciliation that occurred in his family. The whole post can be read on his facebook site. I wept many tears as I read this man’s story.
Back to Professor Rah, I put my feet to the fire, “I said first chance I get I’m getting up with him!” He prayed blessings upon me, pleasantries were exchanged and we both made our separate ways. I thought, ok, convicted and confessed, then there is this matter of repentance. And yes, I had to ask for his forgiveness, the abuser. I had sinned; I had separated myself from God and God’s people, for 33 years now! (Professor Rah made that really clear in his witness.) Don’t patronize me or excuse me, I harbored hate and the Sermon on the Mount equates that with murder, and me a pacifist! (Matthew 5: 21) I daydreamed of what I should do, a trip to the old neighborhood, surround myself with former running mates, or maybe a few off duty police officer friends, then I thought, “no, that is what the child who is still scared would do, not the man I am now. So, stand strong in God, you will not need these other people!” I then decided not to wait, we will speak over the phone, not to be impersonal or due to any cowardice (I don’t do the latter, my Dad thankfully taught me that lesson!) I knew if I waited until I got back I would not have the prayers of my brothers and sisters at CCDA, in this holy place, I needed their soul force. I also know me; I’d get distracted, church work would interrupt my spiritual growth and a chance at a powerful ministry. The flow and eddies of the “to-dos” would push out “the-musts.” So, it was a phone call, put up or shut-up! I had no script to work from, just me. The Father speaking to two of his hurting children.
I called my Mom, and told her she didn’t have to do it, I didn’t want her mixed up in my faith journey if it caused her pain, I asked her for his number. She found it and I dialed and was met by a woman’s voice, I assume she may be my stepmother, and I asked, using my pastor voice, “Does David Henson live here?” She said, “Yes!” “I need to speak to him it is urgent.” “May I ask who is calling?” “Sure, tell him it is Christopher!” I wanted to rage, but God got in the way, thanks be to God.
Dad gets on the phone and sounds two days older than dirt (to quote him, he often used that phrase) due to having the “crud,” as he called it. I said, “Dad, I’ve called to apologize to you for my sins.” He quickly said, “Sir that isn’t necessary.” I said it is, and told him the ministry I was being called to and about the scriptures that had convicted me. So, yes I needed to ask his forgiveness for having a 33 year grudge against him. He kept calling me sir, as if he was not sure he was not allowed to call me son, powerful respect on his part! I never even felt the need to ask about the past, for me I’d let go of those atrocities thanks to the soul-force of my daughter, Sophie you gave me strength today. I could not look forward to the future without her either. And when it comes down to it, I would not be here to enjoy now or later without Summer, my rock!
Dad’s response (I refuse to edit), “Listen Chris, you’re a hell of a more powerful man than I will ever be and I love and respect you. But, face it sir, I f-ed up! You were just a kid. I was wrong; you never deserved any of the abuse I gave you. Damnedest thing was, I could never break you.” Me: “I don’t know what to say (I’m crying), father, those words make me proud to be your son, and I love you!” Dad: “I love you too” (he was crying, now that I haven’t seen, it is rarer than me crying) We’re men, I give him an out on this and me too, we can only do the serious thing for so long, he asked how I was doing…said he understood I’d became a pastor, and jokingly said “but not a Baptist.” Me: “Yes, I worked hard Dad, you taught me to work harder than any other kid, brains is part of it, but the passion and the drive is also a must. So I graduated with honors with a degree in Crisis intervention in a community based psychology setting, I also was a stats person too…all from NCSU. I then went, finally, to Duke, did well, never made below a B, I wouldn’t want you disappointed in me.” Dad: “I wouldn’t have been!” Me: “I know, its sarcasm, you taught me that too! I told him about his daughter-in-law and granddaughter. He was happy for me. I told him about England and fights with the BNP, I thanked him, excusing his methods, for making me pit bull tough, you need that to stand against the skinheads. Thanks for the courage Dad. Dad said, “well your Mom is no slouch either son.”
I thanked him for my gift to preach, Mom made sure I stayed a Christian and raised me in the faith, but she can’t claim the gift of preaching, that is a Henson family gift. I thanked him for it, reminding him that through him giving me that trait God has used me to reach so many people. He then asked, “Can I tell you what I’m doing?” I said, “sure!” “Now this will sound odd, and I’ve been clean for 15 years, but I work for SCAN in Statesville,, Stop Child Abuse Now. Well, I teach the parenting classes, I know it sounds wrong, but hold on and hear me out. When I get to the end of teaching the course I share with the class on the last night…well…I tell them what a horrible job I did at raising my own son and daughter. I encourage them…don’t look at these lessons as a “have to do,” but “a must do” less you lose all that you love, I’m living proof of it.” He relives this story weekly. I’m glad that he can now tell his class a new ending the next time he teaches the course.
In a sense I guess I offered him absolution, his telling this story was his penance and it was over. I googled him, the story is true, he wasn’t lying! I gave him my cell phone number because after forgiveness comes reconciliation, this is where the two begin their journey to become one, and I don’t know where that will go, but I know God is in it, so we will get somewhere! Reconciliation is a journey and it is beautiful, the abused and abuser both win and celebrate and both are healed! What ignorance on my part, how could God not change him and yet change me?
Back to the phone call, lunch was upon my schedule here in Cincinnati. Dad: “Some day Son I hope to shake you hand and meet a real man for once!” Me: “Dad I’d rather we just hug, as equals.” Dad: “Son, it is up to you if we’ll ever see each other again, I leave that with you.” Me; “I said, well, I’ll pray about it, but even if not angels in heaven rejoice for us both today! And in the end one day you and I both will celebrate in heaven and the party will be without end! Me, my father, and our Father, a blast man!” My parting words to him today, “Dad, today I’m proud to call you father, I love you. Peace be upon you!” He said, “This has been the best day of my life.” I said, “Me too, but I disagree, you see we get to move forward, what if there are better days ahead for the two of us…” Dad then offered a nugget of theological wisdom, “yep, things work out better when you get out the way and just let God do the work.” Amen, I agree with him…my father…whom I love…whom I am proud to call my own. I am no longer ashamed of my past, anything, or myself because today I am free, today I have no sins, no separation from God!
I share this not out of arrogance, but because good news must be proclaimed. God is Good!