by Becky Ritchey
I’m taking this opportunity to tell one of my favorite stories. It’s about my two dads – my earthly father and my Everlasting Father God. It’s about reconciliation and many of God’s awesome characteristics: His power, foreknowledge, compassion, love, mercy, and sovereignty.
My whole life, my relationship with my earthly father was strained, both of us were to blame for different reasons. For my part, I never treated him with the respect due to a father from his child. By the time I was an adult, I’d developed the shameful habit of responding to his attempts at conversation with short, snotty answers, always giving him the brush-off. He likewise had developed the habit of putting up with my insolence, never demanding an apology or respectful behavior from me. We weren’t together too often once I was an adult, since I enlisted in the Air Force when I was 19; you’d think I would have cherished our visits by being more civil toward him. But I didn’t. For some reason, I had a lousy attitude toward my dear father that manifested in disrespectful behavior every time I was around him.
Everything changed in an instant during one of my visits back home. I was 27 years-old and had committed my life to Jesus a couple of years before. So now I had the Holy Spirit messing with my life (whether I wanted Him to or not). One night during that particular visit, I was in the kitchen talking with my dad. That was in the early 80s, too long ago for me to recall the topic. What I do remember is that the conversation ended when he said something to which I responded in my usual manner, giving him another dose of snootiness and disrespect. Dad did what he always did; shrugged and walked away. I (and the chip on my shoulder) turned briskly, stomping down the hall toward the bedroom. The hallway was only a few yards long . . . but by the time I got to the end of it, the conviction of the Holy Spirit was so heavy on me that resisting would probably have knocked me on my butt (which is what I deserved). Immediately, I did an about-face and walked back down the hallway to the kitchen. This time my steps weren’t so defiant, and my shoulders and head hung low. Barely a minute had passed since that last exchange between Dad and me so I found him standing at the edge of the kitchen.
I walked slowly up to my father and said something he’d never heard me say before:
“I’m really sorry I just snapped at you, Dad. I know I was disrespectful.”
How did he respond? A big tear rolled down his cheek as he hugged me, saying, “I don’t want to fight with you anymore.” I don’t recall what else we said, but I’ll never forget what I felt: in seconds, I felt my heart soften as years of crusty angst crumbled away. In an instant, I was reconciled to my father.
Need I point out the obvious – how God’s mercy, power and sovereignty were at work in that situation? As if that wasn’t awesome enough, there’s an epilogue to this story. That was one of the last visits I had with my dad (it was either the last visit or next to last – memory fails me). Less than a year later, my father died of a massive heart attack at the age of 56. He died suddenly one Saturday morning later that year, a few days before Christmas. He was gone before the paramedics reached him so I never had the opportunity to say goodbye before he died (I lived 900 miles away in another state).
Shortly after he died, I realized how loving and compassionate God had been toward me earlier that year, when I was reconciled to my father through the sovereign power of the Holy Spirit. I can’t imagine how I’d feel if God hadn’t stepped into that situation, convicting me of my sin toward my dad and healing our relationship so quickly.
Did God know ahead of time that my father would die within a few months of that crucial visit? Yes, He did. Was the Holy Spirit’s conviction a divine intervention that saved me from years of debilitating regret and shame? Yes, it was. Every time I recall the circumstances of how my Everlasting Father reconciled me to my earthly father, I’m filled with awe and gratitude at God’s compassion and love toward me — a wretched daughter who spent her life rebelling against her father, but found her way into his loving, forgiving arms before it was too late. Glory to God!