Amy Drake and her husband Dusty helped sponsor Tennessee's Christ-In-Youth conference this past summer. When the speaker addressed the 2,000-plus attendees -- comparing our Heavenly Father to earthly fathers -- Amy was shaken.
But the night a woman gave her testimony about forgiving her father (and asking his forgiveness for telling him she hated him), Amy knew the Lord was speaking directly to her. After all, there were years of abuse at the hands of her alcoholic father, and Amy had spent much of her life burying the pain. She addressed our congregation one Sunday evening to tell her story: "I experienced much abuse and violence. I was told 'I can't stand you'; 'I don't love you'; 'I wish you weren't my daughter.' Getting beaten was something my three siblings and I all experienced, and while my mother was the target of most of the physical abuse, I did witness my sister being strangled and I was even shot at.
"A few days after I turned 17, I overheard my father and his friend, thinking no one was home, going over the final plans to burn the house down that night while my mother, sister and I slept. He had cut the phone lines so we couldn't call for help. We ran for our lives that day. Over the next 25 years, I had limited (and awkward) communication with my dad, seeing him about five or six times. Having grandchildren helped -- it gave us something to talk about. While it was a surface relationship, each visit got a little kinder and usually ended with a little hug.
"Every year, going to and from CIY, we travel right through my hometown in Marion, Ill. Dusty and I stop there to get the world's best pizza and cupcakes. On the night 'forgiveness' was preached, I said to Dusty, 'Since we're going through Marion anyway, maybe I should try to meet up with my dad to tell him I forgive him.' That's when the internal battle began. For the next three, agonizing days I had a 'yes I should,' 'no I shouldn't' debate, over and over and over."
Amy tried to dismiss God's prodding, knowing it was impossible for her to obey. She found herself teeter-tottering between confronting her father and simply refusing to make the phone call to meet with him. Her final decision? There would be no meeting. End of discussion.
Amy explained what then happened. "We stopped in Marion to get our pizza, and while my attention was drawn to the seating hostess, Dusty whispered in my ear, 'Amy, your dad is here!' I looked, and there he was -- eating at a table right by the entrance! This meeting clearly had been orchestrated by God. Silently I said, 'OK God, I guess you want me to talk to my dad!' We sat and ate together for probably an hour, but I didn't taste a single bite of pizza because I was so freaked out!
"As it turned out, there was no reason Dusty and I should have been there. We should have been in the take-out part of the restaurant, as we were only getting a pizza to go. My dad's plans had changed because the restaurant where he wanted to go was full. No doubt God wanted me to talk to my dad.
When it was time to leave, Dad walked us to our van. Although I was so nervous I wanted to vomit, I asked my dad to talk with me privately. Once I did that, I knew God was with me. He had made this happen, and I had nothing to be afraid of. I told my dad that while we both acted like all was forgiven, he needed to hear me say the words, 'Dad, I forgive you!' to which he replied, 'You know, I have never told you that I am sorry. None of that was your fault!' I then asked for his forgiveness. He said I had nothing to be forgiven of. I said, 'Dad, I told you I hated you. I had no right to say that, and I'm sure it must have hurt your feelings.' He admitted it did hurt, and in a crazy way, hearing that made me happy. All those years, he cared enough to be hurt when I was mean to him. After a little more talking, he put his hands on my shoulders, looked into my eyes and said, 'You are a beautiful woman inside and out.' Wow! He had never said anything like that to me before. We hugged a deep, long hug and said our good-byes.
God had orchestrated the entire thing. All I did was obey.
What an amazing God we serve!"