Six years later, he showed up again, two weeks after Byron had graduated from high school. It was an awkward meeting. He stayed about half an hour. And then he left again, and this time there was no contact for sixteen years. Byron confided to a friend, "My attitude toward my dad was everything that it shouldn’t have been for a Christian. He had robbed mi of a happy childhood. He had failed me at every point. He had abused me. I hesitate to say I hated him, but perhaps hatred isn’t too strong a word. There was a bitterness there that was almost a loathing. Whenever anyone asked me about my dad, I’d shut them off pretty fast. As I grew older, I put it all out of my mind, and there was just a blank spot there. I didn’t think about it. I could go for years without once thinking about my father."
Then out of the blue Byron’s aunt called him and said, "Your father is in Bristol, VA, very sick and close to death. It would mean something to him if he could see one of his children. He has cirrhosis of the liver." None of the other children wanted to see him, and Byron lived the closest to Bristol. So he got in his car and drove up there. He said, "I had a ton of thoughts. Not a lot of strong feelings, just a sense that someone should do this. I didn’t want to, but it seemed like I should."
He walked into the ICU and there was a seventy one year old man, connected to monitors, tubes inserted into his body, surrounded by medical equipment. Byron hadn’t seen him for sixteen years, but he recognized the man. And something strange happened. As Byron saw his dad lying there helplessly, dying, strung about with wires and tubes and monitors and machines, all the years of hatred and anger melted away. He walked over and stood by the bedside. The man opened his eyes, saw Byron, and began to cry. Byron said. "I wept, too. It was almost as though I could see going through his mind waves of regret for the wasted years." Byron spent that day and the next with his dad, and he was surprised th find that he had a lot of feeling for the man. "The burden that I had been carrying around for years, without realizing it, was gone. We were able to talk, and I was able to share the gospel with him."
Byron’s father survived that stay in the hospital, and was able to return home briefly. During that time, Byron had a second visit , taking his wife and daughters with him. And during that visit, he grew convinced that his dad had trusted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.
Later the call came that his father had died. But Byron was no longer bitter or estranged. The compassion of Jesus Christ had taken hold, and instead of seeing himself as an abused victim full of hatred and cold of heart, he saw something else. He saw his dad through the Lord’s eyes, as a needy man who just needed Jesus Christ.
*Nelson’ Complete Book of Stories,Illustrations, and Quotes. Robert J. Morgan
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