By Mark Ellis –
His father served as a Marine in Korea, did three tours of Vietnam, and never returned to his wife and nine children – by choice.
“When I was five dad lined us up and went off to Vietnam; I thought he would come back,” says Matthew Carter.
But as the months turned into years and his father never returned, he began to wonder.
He had a close friend with a father in the military. “Your dad is going to come back,” his friend reassured him.
“I grew up believing that. At 10 or 11 my twin sister and I opened up a drawer and found divorce papers.”
For whatever reason, his mother never informed them. “Nobody ever told us…I can’t explain why. I’m sure mom was deeply hurt. We never mentioned his name. We never said the word dad.”
Matthew’s “father wound” turned into scar tissue. “I grew up with this resentment that fueled a competitive edge. My heart (got) so hardened, I wrote him off,” he says.
His mother took her children to church dutifully, but none of them had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
In the 1980s, his older brother Tom became a born again Christian. Somehow Tom re-established contact with their father.
One day Tom came to him and said, “Look, if you ever want to meet dad I know he would love to meet you.”
“He’s your dad, not mine,” Matthew said coldly.
Not long after that, Matt accepted an invitation from Tom to attend Calvary Chapel in Capistrano Beach, California. Chuck Smith Jr. gave an altar call and Matthew raised his hand.
In 1989 Matthew married Christina, but only two years into the marriage he was ready to leave. “I don’t think I want to be married anymore,” he announced one day to his wife.
The two separated for three weeks and entered into marriage counseling. “I was in a place where I shouldn’t have been. It was on me,” Matthew recalls.
One day he was on his way to play golf with a client, driving down the highway toward the Monarch Beach Golf Links in Dana Point, when something surprising happened.
“I heard the Lord’s voice from heaven; it was audible, clear, and distinct,” he recounts.
Commit yourself to me, you never have and neither has your father.
The voice was loving, but direct. “He was calling me out in a loving way.
I know it was for me. It was like the Lord saying, You are my son. You need to go this way.”
Matthew suddenly realized he was about to repeat the pattern of his father. “It was overwhelming, like a light went on. I didn’t get it and now I understood. It made sense in that I was living out what my dad was living out when he was my age.”
He recognized he needed to make a clean break with generational patterns of sin. Matthew felt like God had just doused him with a big bucket of ice-cold water.
From that day forward, Matthew recommitted his life to Jesus Christ.
In 1992, Matthew reunited with his father, through arrangements made by his brother Steve, the first believer in the family, along with Tom.
“I was nervous,” Matt recounts. “I didn’t know what to expect. He said hello to everybody. I was one of the last to go in.” Wow, this is my dad. He is a pretty big guy, he thought.
Matt and his father embraced. “It was kind of awkward,” he admits.
At a certain point, Matt pulled his father aside. “Dad, can we go outside and talk for a minute?”
They sat down by the pool and Matt was very direct. “Look, I’m not asking you to tell me why you left and why we never reconnected.
“What is important is that you know I forgive you and we move forward.”
His father stared at him for a moment and then said very simply, “Okay.”
From that day forward, Matt never knew why his father abandoned their family, but he found grace and healing in his heavenly Father.
“We see dad as often as we can,” he says. I love him and I know he loves me. We talk to each other.”
“Last week, my wife Christina and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary. We’ve raised two boys, Jeremiah and Jonah and we couldn’t be more proud of them.
“I give God all the Glory for all that He has done in my life through His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus is all loving and all merciful. I know that I know that he loves me and he loves you.
“I think of the enormous love of God the father. A love for us that reaches so high and deep and far and wide that He would send his only son Jesus to die on the cross so that our sins would be forgiven, and that we would spend eternal life in heaven.”
If you want to know more about a personal relationship with God, go here