This story was given to me by a friend—a powerful story that vividly portrays what forgiveness can do to heal a broken relationship.
"Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37: 4
What I've Learned About Forgiveness, by Gary Miller
Some things in this life require a miracle for change to happen. This was the case in my relationship with my father. My name is Gary and I was born in 1946.
My dad, Robert K. Miller, was born in 1921, but his dad was never a part of his life in any way. His home life only included a single mom and two older sisters. His mother, Rose Miller, couldn’t support the family with the wage she earned in an Ohio shoe factory. Rose moved her little family in with her mom and dad. While she was working at the shoe factory, her father, my grandfather, beat my dad regularly. The stress and strain of the Great Depression formed the perfect storm for my dad to be abused.
He ran away at age sixteen and joined the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) and
worked out West. At age seventeen, he joined the Army and spent much of his young adult life fighting in WW II.
I mention this as backdrop for the relationship issues I experienced with my dad.
Growing up, I was unable to see why my dad seemed so angry—it felt like he was
constantly unhappy with me. I frequently fell short of his expectations. As time passed, I took on his anger. Although Dad was widely admired and respected as a career military man, I resented him. I yearned for his acceptance just like every young man does. I desperately wanted him to tell me he was proud to have me as his son. I would cry sometimes when hearing the song by Mike and the Mechanics called In the Living Years. The song reminded me of my need for approval from my dad.
Try as I may to earn his approval, I couldn’t seem to get it. This went on for many years into my adult life, all the way until I was 47 years old. Up until that time I don’t remember my dad and I ever really relating on a personal level. It felt like nothing could break down the wall between us. In talking with other men over the years I have found this is a common problem. Back then, I thought I was just different.
I married my best friend, Judy, at age 20 and accepted the Lord into my life at age 22. This began a journey to examine my own heart. God began to show me I had to
confront my own resentment and anger toward my dad and seek God’s forgiveness.
It did not happen overnight but took many years. God also began to help me learn my father’s story and understand where he was coming from. The Lord showed me how to forgive my dad for how he had treated me. The last part of Luke 6:37 really convicted me: ”forgive and you shall be forgiven.”
I thought, “how can I forgive my dad?” I knew I had to, but how? I could not do it by myself—the wound was deep. So, I asked God for His help in forgiving him. He showed me that there was a part I had to play: forgiveness had to start with me. It was a huge struggle, but I realized it was the only way.
Over time my heart was softened toward dad and I got a glimpse of his past and what he had experienced. Growing up without the acceptance of a father along with fighting in WW II at a young age was certainly more difficult than I could imagine. Later on, there were deployments to Korea and Vietnam. He was a soldier through and through and found a camaraderie which gave him purpose. I did not understand it but gradually began to appreciate his patriotism for America.
When I was 47, Dad became stricken with pancreatitis. I was called to the hospital and saw him sedated with tubes running into his nose and throat, and needles inserted into the veins into his hands. He could not talk. However, when I entered the room he perked up. I saw a gentleness in his eyes like I had never seen before. It was obvious God had touched his hard heart. After recovery he wanted to start meeting for breakfast at a local restaurant—just the two of us. This had never happened before.
One day while sharing breakfast he looked at me with tears in his eyes and asked me to forgive him for all the years of hurt he had caused. By this time, I was crying—my heart melted as I accepted his request for forgiveness. I asked him to forgive me. We stood and embraced right there in the restaurant. I felt weak in the knees. It was almost unbelievable, but if you knew my dad you knew he was as sincere as he could be. He was not one to cry and show that kind of emotion.
We spent the last six years of his life putting the “past in the past” and enjoying
each other’s company. I have to admit I was not used to this relationship, but it was
good for both of us. Sometimes I would think of all the years that were lost, but I had to put that aside and concentrate on the miracle in front of me. My wife helped me to remember this.
Was our relationship perfect? No, it was not. However, it was the best I had ever
experienced. The past had to be laid to rest.
I was there the night dad passed and it was rewarding to see him leave this world with God’s peace in his heart—not only toward me, but also toward my two sisters. God did a miracle in my family and I believe it began when I forgave Dad. I no longer feel anger in my heart toward him. I still remember the past, with a totally different perspective.
Miracles are available to all who forgive.