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The surprising journey that changed me and my dad

Clemson football player Darien Rencher was only 14 when he discovered that a father can sometimes learn from his son.

My father, Darwin, has always been involved in my life.

Our relationship hasn’t been cookie-cutter perfect, but he’s been someone I could always count on. I love him to death, and I know he would say the same.

I just never expected I would get to influence him as deeply as he has influenced me.

Growing up, we attended church regularly as a family, but it was more out of ritualistic motive than truly enjoying community and fellowship with Jesus.

We were “good people.” I grew up a “good kid” with “Yes, sir! and “No, sir!” manners, and I never really got in trouble.

But like many people, our family gradually stopped attending church because we didn’t see or understand the value in it. We believed we could be “good people” without it.

At every stage of my life, we’ve walked together seeking God the best we know how.

Lighting The Fuse

Then there was a moment that challenged my worldview.

After practice one day, my middle school quarterback invited me to come to Fuse, NewSpring’s student ministry. I went mainly because a cute cheerleader was going to be there. But hey, I was there!

It was the first time I ever truly enjoyed a church service and didn’t end up playing tic tac toe in the middle of it. I genuinely felt welcomed, and I wasn’t bored out of my mind.

I became a Fuse regular, and my parents began to see differences in my lifestyle, so they continued to allow me to go.

It was evident that I had a new found joy.

The Best Decision Ever

At the end of that school year in 2012, I signed up to go to Gauntlet, and this is where my life truly would change forever.

As I watched people worship, preach, and operate that week, I realized I did not have a personal relationship with God. I made it through six or seven services at Gauntlet knowing the Holy Spirit was leading me to respond — my heart had never beaten so fast — but I resisted every time. (Still one of my greatest accomplishments.)

On the final night, and the last invitation to respond before we all went back to our homes, I decided to follow Jesus, then and there. That was the best decision of my life to date.

My father started to search his own heart to see if he ever truly encountered Jesus on a personal level.

Fateful Conversations

I remember, as a 14-year-old young man, that I came home and showed my parents all of my notes from each service, and it was evident that I had a new found joy.

The Sunday after we all returned from Gauntlet, anyone who had responded had an opportunity to follow up with their next step in baptism in front of their families and people close to them.

My father, being the supportive guy he is, decided to get baptized with me in 2012.

As the months went by, I was legitimately just trying to figure out this Christian journey — reading my Bible, hanging out with my Fuse group, serving, and becoming a regular church attender.

During that time, I also had many conversations with my dad. I didn’t know it, but my father started to search his own heart to see if he ever truly encountered Jesus on a personal level.

All the men in my immediate family were at Gauntlet 2016.

Growing Together

Man, God is good! At one of the Easter services in 2014, my dad responded to the invitation. He decided to follow Jesus, the best he knew how, for the rest of his days.

He even walked forward and signed his name on the cross at the front of the stage to physically show what he inwardly decided.

As any true believer knows, faith is a journey. The goal isn’t perfection but progress. I have seen that to be true in both my life and my father’s.

At every stage of my life, we’ve walked together seeking God the best we know how in the good and bad — through tearing my ACLs, dating ups and downs, financial struggles, financial blessings, and college; through my father’s divorce and remarriage.

All the men in my immediate family were at Gauntlet 2016. My brother, DeAvin, and my father both led rooms, and I attended as a student in my senior year.

It’s one of my favorite memories — a pure reflection of how much the Lord has done in our lives.

Jesus is more exalted in my dad’s life.

Setting The Example

My earthly father has always tried his best to love his kids the best he knew how. It’s special that the fatherly love he had for me resulted in my dad encountering the love from his heavenly Father.

Honoring the leadership of our fathers and father figures is important, and not only on Father’s Day. But my story shows that, sometimes, it’s a son’s job to set the example, too.

It doesn’t make us better than our fathers, but it is just embracing the assignment God has given us.

It matters that fathers fight to follow Jesus, and I know from my experience that it’s never too late for a father to do the right thing.

We are not perfect now, by any means. But, without a doubt, we’ve made progress as father and son. Jesus is more exalted in my dad’s life, and he does his best to lead me as a God-fearing man.

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