I remember vividly a meal and conversation Nanci and I shared with Tony and Lois Evans at an event we were speaking at. I never tire of his messages—I am always riveted. I thank God for Tony and his family and his many years of faithful ministry. I love what we hear from him and his son Anthony in this video about the need for fathers to apologize to their children. (In this article, I share a personal story and talk about how saying “I'm sorry, please forgive me,” may teach your children more than you would have by never failing, and far more than pretending you never fail.)
Watching this video made me reflect on my own relationship with my dad. When I was young, he was very tough on my brother and me. Though he could at times be good-natured and funny, his default mood seemed to be disapproval of us. Dad wasn’t abusive, but we were not at ease around him. He never came to my many games or school activities, only my mom was there. To me she was always the world’s best mom, but I came to really resent my dad. In fact, I’m sad to say that from age 12 to 15, I actually hated him.
I’ll never forget walking home after football, basketball, or track from Orient Grade School, and coming to that place on what was called then Harris Road, now 302nd, where I could first see my house a quarter of a mile away. I would immediately look to see whether dad’s car was in the driveway. Usually it wasn’t, and I would feel great relief. But when occasionally it was, I felt dread and would tighten up and try to figure out any way to avoid seeing him.
My dear sister Gail, my dad’s daughter by a previous marriage, saw a tender side to dad that I didn’t see until we had our daughters and observed how he was with them, very sweet and kind. I remember telling Nanci I wished I would’ve seen those qualities in my dad when I grew up in his house. But he faced a world of difficulties growing up and living through two World Wars and the Great Depression that I never did, and every time I think of him my heart is tender toward him.
I’m glad to say that after I came to faith in Christ, I immediately felt a love for my dad that I had never known before. I prayed for him for many years and at age 84, as he faced cancer, he came to faith in Christ. For the first time he seemed to need me and enjoy my company. That was a great gift of God to me, and I hope to him also.
I feel no bitterness at all in my heart toward my dad, but I’m sorry to say I never once remember him apologizing to me for anything or even admitting he was wrong. I think that if he had, our relationship would’ve been very different. This is why the video with Tony Evans and his son is so powerful to me. I too am an imperfect dad and husband, so I certainly feel more empathy toward dad and his failures than I did when I was growing up. But I also know that I am right to hold myself to a higher standard, because while my dad never knew Jesus when I was a child, or any of his children were young, I did know Jesus by the time I had children. And in that sense, I have fewer excuses then my dad did for my own shortcomings.
My daughters Karina and Angela know my weaknesses and imperfections and when I failed them, sometimes knowing it, but most of the time not knowing. But I hope they also know the depth of my love for them, which is beyond anything I can express. I do recall times of asking their forgiveness for things I said and did, but I’m sure there were other times when I failed to do that. I thank God for His love and forgiveness.
Here is a great passage of Scripture for dads and their children, for husbands and wives, for siblings and for every family member, including those who are fellow members of a church family: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).