This whole story revolves around God restoring my family.
Eight years ago, I confronted my dad and said I didn’t want him to be my dad anymore. I said we would be better as friends. I was a jerk. Quick narrative of my dad: early on, loved him, thought he was awesome. Then teenage years, “I don’t like you.” And in college: “You think you can be my dad, still?”
I thought the restoration of our family all depended on my dad, because I believed that all of the things that went wrong in our family were his fault. And it stayed that way for years. Then last June, my dad contacted me and it seemed as if he wanted to fix whatever was wrong. So we had a whole family meeting— mom, dad, sister, and extended family. It was for the purpose of restoration, reconciliation. It turned into a big fight. What I saw was that my dad honestly didn’t know how to guide the restoration. We were all dependent on this one man to humble himself and make things right. I absolutely believed there was nothing I could do to fix it.
I lost hope. I kept thinking maybe God would grab dad’s heart. I told my family and my wife there would always be a rift. We would coexist, but we would never be restored.
Fast forward to my birthday, March 31st. We were having dinner with my whole family, and this is where the story really comes. On the Monday before, after getting off the phone with my mom, I felt really heavy. And as specifically as God speaks to me, I heard, “Rhett, tell your family your story.”
Three years earlier, I had written my spiritual story on paper and shared it with my wife. I hadn’t opened it since. But right when I heard God say, “Share your story,” (and I never had plans for this), I started to hear, “Rhett, your parents don’t know you. The last time they knew you was when you were 18. The person you are now is a 180° shift.”
In my story, there was a lot that had happened because I didn’t like myself. It was all for show…the good Christian son. And there was a lot of stuff in that story that would hurt any parent and make them feel responsible. But I told my wife I was about to repent of some serious sin. God had made that clear to me.
So on the birthday dinner night, my whole family was together. My stomach felt like it was on a rollercoaster. That’s how I knew it was the right decision. Along with my story, I added 12 “I’m sorry” statements. Six were specific events—like when I stole toothpicks when I was 8 with my mom at the grocery, to confessing sexual sins and addictions my parents never knew about. I repented for being distant, and took responsibility for our relationship based on what I had done. At the end of those statements, I wrote, “Please forgive me.”
So we’re eating dinner that night and every conversation is always, “What did you do this weekend,” my grandma’s body aches, surface conversations. But then out of nowhere my dad asks, “How do you know if you’ve truly forgiven someone?” My dad had never asked such a question before. And yet he asks this on the same night when I’m coming to them for forgiveness. Everyone’s heart was right for this conversation. Then we had the most impactful, Kingdom-driven conversation we have ever had.
We put the kids to bed. I got out my story with the “I’m sorry” statements and I read it aloud. Everyone was listening and intent on what I was saying. I knew healing was happening as I spoke. But I had no expectations of what would follow. I just wanted them to know who I am. At the end of each “I’m sorry,” I said, “Please forgive me.” They both very quickly said, “Rhett, you’re forgiven.” To hear them respond like that was unbelievable. The burden of living in darkness would be off me.
Then God opened the floodgates of healing. For the next three hours, my dad specifically repented and asked for my forgiveness for different things throughout my childhood. I had never once heard him say “I’m sorry, please forgive me.” He did for three straight hours immediately following me reading my story. Walls broke. Generational walls broke, crumbled. My dad said completely on his own, “I’m sorry.” That was completely unexpected. God just blew me away.