June 17, 2016

Winning Your Child's Heart

“And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.” Malachi 4:6 (NKJV)

As a Dad and Grandfather, I’ve come to appreciate a verse in Proverbs more and more the older that I get:

“Grandchildren are the crown of old men, And the glory of sons is their fathers.” Proverbs 17:6 (NASB)

What grieves me is to see a generation of children and parents estranged from one another by the lies of our culture.  We’ve put so much ahead of our most important relationships and sacrificed the greater joy and glory that could be ours for promises that can never deliver. But, there is a verse at the very end of the Old Testament that gives me hope!  God promised that, before the great and dreadful day of the LORD arrives, He would turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to their fathers….” (Malachi 4:5-6) One of the great joys of ministry is getting to see that kind of reconciliation!  Recently, a father in our church shared his own experience of reconnecting with his sons, one with whom he had been estranged from for 13 years. Here’s Rodney’s story:

“I had signed all of my parental rights to my son over to his mother when he was 6 years old.  The 2015 Father’s Day message at church was hard for me, as Pastor Kerry was talking about sons without their dads. That set off a fire in me to find Rusty. I finally found him on a social network that wasn’t blocking me. After a couple of days and a lot of thought and prayer, I decided to send him a friend request. He accepted, much to my surprise. After a week or so, I sent him a private message, telling him that I was so sorry for what I had done in the past and that I would really like to get to know him. Two days later, he replied and said he forgave me ‘for everything I had ever done to him.’ We continued to message back and forth and, out of the blue, he sent me his phone number so we could talk. He agreed to let me come and see him, so we drove to where his was in college and got a room. When he came up to the room, we sat down, and the first question he asked was ‘why?’ I didn’t feel that I had anything to hide from him if I was going to have any chance at a real relationship with him, so I told him, ‘I made a huge mistake that I lived with every day for 13 years and, without God, I would not have had the courage to talk to you.’ He said that felt it necessary to forgive me. Rusty had come to Christ not too long before I did, and he has given his testimony to kids who were in the same situations as he was.

We continued to talk, text, and go to his baseball games. About a month ago, he started calling me and introducing me as his ‘dad’ and telling me that he ‘loved me.’ Words cannot describe how that makes a dad feel.  After the battle my other son, Chase, went through with his cancer, I felt I was lucky to have one kid!  And, now, I had both sons! Rusty and I talked, and we decided that there was no way that we could have ever had a relationship without us both coming to God because he ‘hated’ me all those years.

He loves to state that, although his last name is different, that he has my ‘blood in his veins.’ A few weeks ago, we got to go to a game at his school, and he invited us to see his dorm. He is so much like me that he finishes my sentences and, even, wears the same oddball cologne as I do. He is as big of a fisherman as I am and, now, he is going to come late May and spend the majority of the summer with me, running deep-sea charters on my boat! How blessed am I? Isn’t grace beautiful? When we bless a meal or pray, he is the first one with his hands out; he gets on to his friends, making sure they take their hats off. He is such a blessing, and a big heartache is mending in the both of us every day as we walk with Christ, hand in hand. We have a family week in Freeport where I will have my dad (we didn’t talk for 7 years), Rusty (didn’t talk for 13 years) Chase (cancer survivor) and my wife (fought to keep our marriage) all together for the week. It is going to be such a change of the normal for this family, and we expect to change our legacy.

This past Friday, Rusty demanded to come to the house for the first time to see where we lived and what we like to do. At the end of the day, we had a tailgate ‘man-to-man’ talk, and he asked me ‘How can you give up a kid that idolized you and wanted to be just like you? I thought I was a good kid when I came to your house for visitation.’  I told him, ‘Rusty, I can only say that I am sorry, and there is not a reason that could ever justify my actions then. I was a very bad and selfish person, and I made a terrible decision that is not okay.’ He said, ‘You still, are you know?’ I asked what he meant, and he said, ‘My hero. I want to be like you.’

This has been such an amazing journey that almost doesn’t seem real. I can’t tell anyone the emotions that I have felt and unloaded. God’s grace and power are never to be understood as He delivers way more than any one person can ever imagine while on this earth.”

God is still turning the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers!  When it happens, it is the greatest joy either will experience!  If you want to win the hearts of your children, begin by reconciling your heart with your Heavenly Father.  In repentance, turn from the sin of going your own way and ask God’s forgiveness.  Then, ask Him to engineer the circumstances for you to reconnect with your son or daughter and establish a relationship that honors God.  Risk the awkwardness to admit your own failures, and humbly ask forgiveness for the pain you created.  Don’t force the relationship, but give room for God to work in both of your hearts.