There’s another area of which I’m not proud. But I mention it because a lot of people need to have the same change in their lives, and I found the source of change: a relationship with Jesus Christ. That area is hatred. I had a lot of hatred in my life. It wasn’t something outwardly manifested, but there was a kind of inward grinding. I was ticked off with people, with things, with issues.
But I hated one man more than anyone else in the world: my father. I hated his guts. To me he was the town alcoholic. Everybody knew my dad was a drunk. My friends would make jokes about my father staggering around downtown. They didn’t think it bothered me. I was like other people — laughing on the outside. But let me tell you, I was crying on the inside. There were times I’d go out in the barn and see my mother beaten so badly she couldn’t get up, lying in the manure behind the cows. When we had friends over, I would take my father out, tie him up in the barn, and park the car around the silo. We would tell our friends he’d had to go somewhere. I don’t think anyone could have hated anyone more than I hated my father.
After I made that decision for Christ, he entered my life and his love was so strong that he took the hatred and turned it upside down. I was able to look my father squarely in the eyes and say, “Dad, I love you.” And I really meant it. After some of the things I’d done, that shook him up.
When I transferred to a private university I was in a serious car accident. With my neck in traction, I was taken home. I’ll never forget my father coming into my room. He asked me, “Son, how can you love a father like me?” I said, “Dad, six months ago I despised you.” Then I shared with my dad the conclusions I had come to about Christ: “Dad, I let Jesus Christ come into my life. I can’t explain it completely, but as a result of that relationship I’ve found the capacity to love and accept not only you but other people just the way they are.”
Forty-five minutes later one of the greatest thrills of my life occurred. Somebody in my own family, someone who knew me so well I couldn’t pull the wool over his eyes, said to me, “Son, if God can do in my life what I’ve seen him do in yours, then I want to give him the opportunity.” Right there my father prayed with me and trusted Christ for the forgiveness of his sins.
Usually the changes take place over several days, weeks, months, or even a year. The life of my father was changed right before my eyes. It was as if somebody reached down and turned on a light bulb. I’ve never seen such a rapid change before or since. My father touched whiskey only once after that. He got it as far as his lips and that was it. I’ve come to one conclusion.
A relationship with Jesus Christ changes lives.