An Interview with My Father—Dayton Graham (1936–2004)

An Interview with My Father—Dayton Graham (1936–2004)

“I think when you walk in the presence of God and see His majesty and His beauty, I think that will make you cry.”

            —Dayton Graham, Karaganda, Kazakhstan, Dec. 2000.

While researching Jack Miller’s story, I realized early on that many people—advocates and critics—had different slices of his life and ministry, but few had a bird’s-eye view of the whole. Therefore, one of my primary goals in writing Jack’s biography was to provide readers with a complete picture of Jack Miller’s life and ministry.

Yesterday, while packing things for storage, I came across an old interview my dad did with a local news agency in Karaganda. The interview was recorded in December 2000, just before he and mom returned to the United States after working for five years with the Methodist Mission Society.

Watching this video made four years before my dad died, I realized afresh that I had done to my dad what I had criticized others for doing in Jack’s life and ministry. Only, I had defined my dad by a slice of his life, a slice that was some of his worst moments, and fixed him at that point, refusing to give him or the Holy Spirit room to change him.

A few years back, I had a similar experience while scanning three years’ worth of dad’s letters he had written to my mom while he worked as an Army water-engineer in Korea from 1957–1959. Mom read the PDF of those thousand-plus pages of handwritten letters four or five times before she died.

The work of organizing dad’s letters gave me a picture of the twenty-year-old version of my father—a father alien to me but one I wished I had known before those years of our father-son experience together, particularly the 1980s and 90s.

However, in this interview, rather than seeing a man I wanted to know, I saw a man that, in my own stubbornness, I had refused to know, because I did not want to forgive him. I wanted to keep him at a distance. I couldn’t trust him.

Here, I saw a humble man who had been given a new life. He was deeply humbled by his own sin and failings, and even more humbled and thankful for the beauty and majesty of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I found myself wishing I had not fixed my father at his worst moments and had forgiven him. In doing so, I could see more clearly my own stubbornness and hard heartedness toward him for which I repent. I found myself regretting not visiting him and mom in Kazakhstan and the missed opportunities to know him better after they returned home.

If you, like me, are fixing people at their worst moments, please give the Holy Spirit space to work Christ and His love into the whole of their life—like I so wanted to do in writing Jack Miller’s biography and, hypocritically, unlike the way in which I dishonored with my own father.

Additionally, since I was blind to the way I was fixing my dad in this way (and justifying my unforgiveness), it stands to reason that I may be doing the same with others in my life as well. 

Finally, please continue praying for Vicki and I as we pack up our house. I sensed the irony of many things my dad shared in this twenty-two-year-old interview as he and mom prepared to return home, just as Vicki and I are preparing to move to Italy and leave behind our parents, kids, and grandkids.

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