Murder By Family: A Father Forgives His Son's Betrayal
- Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Can you see how stupid that was? Your lie has done the impossible — it has made Tricia’s and Kevin’s deaths even worse because now the police think you were involved! Do you have any idea how bad this is?”
Years ago, on a bike ride, I saw a hawk fly right over me, so close I could almost touch it. Clutched within its talons was a field mouse, still alive. I saw the bird swoop up to its nest, bringing breakfast to her young; it would be impossible to forget the look of resignation and terror in the mouse’s eyes as he passed over me. For a moment I saw the same look in Bart’s eyes, but it was gone almost instantly, replaced with resolve.
“Dad, that’s nuts! I didn’t have anything to do with the shootings! I’m sorry about the lie, it just happened. I didn’t mean to lie to you and Mom—I was just afraid of what you would say, and I didn’t want to disappoint you. This will be okay.”
“I don’t know. I’m so mad now, I could spit! I’ve told you before: you cannot ever allow yourself to start lying again! Look at the consequences of this one! If you hadn’t told the lie about graduation, they would be looking elsewhere and might find the real killer before the trail gets cold. Now they’re wasting time on you, and who knows how long they’ll keep at it!”
After a while I calmed down, and I told him I loved him and that the police would soon realize nothing tied him to the shootings. I went back to my room, still angry, disappointed, and depressed. What would happen next?
As the days passed, two things happened: First, the investigation centered more and more on Bart as the mastermind of a plot to kill the rest of the family, assuming that his motives were greed and to cover up failures at school. Second, I came to realize that perhaps my life had been spared for a reason.
God must have something important for me to do, because I could see no logical explanation for my still being alive. The bullet hit me well away from my right lung, and nearly six inches from my heart. The gunman couldn’t have been that bad a shot. Not at that close range.
It occurred to me that perhaps my purpose was to be God’s agent of guidance and instruction for Bart. If he was innocent, I would be the anchor he relied on as he weathered the storms of suspicion; I wouldn’t let him go through that horror alone.
If he was guilty, I would be in a unique position to model God’s unconditional forgiveness and love. I might be the person God would use to soften Bart’s heart. And since I already had forgiven whoever was responsible, if Bart was guilty, he would be covered in a pure forgiveness, granted before I ever thought it might apply to my son. Either way, until I knew more, I would be nonjudgmental and supportive. While I couldn’t gloss over anything or minimize the consequences of any wrongs Bart might have committed, I still needed to show him that God forgives and that there is always hope.
Maybe I’m crazy. But I took comfort in knowing that I was doing what God wanted me to do. I like reading that line in the Bible about the wisdom of God being foolishness to man.
Maybe a nut was exactly whom God intended to use.
Copyright © 2008 by Kent Whitaker
Published by Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher, except as provided for by USA copyright law.
Keith Whitaker worked as a comptroller for a Houston construction firm until the murder of his wife and son. Kent then retired, focusing energy into his emotional healing, restoring the relationship with his son, and dealing with his son's murder trial. He now volunteers for prison ministries and nonprofit organizations -- including helping lead a support ministry for widows and widowers at River Pointe Community Church, which he attends. As a result of his son's trial, Kent has been interviewed extensively and was featured on a recent 48 Hours Mystery! episode focusing on the crime. He travels nationally, speaking to churches, conferences, and organizations about how God heals and forgives.
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