After the amazing responses I heard from people after sharing my story, all the social media shares, texts, conversations and everything, I wanted to take a few minutes and tell you the rest of my story as well as answer some of the questions that people have asked about my story. Read all the way through, though. I want you to hear what my mama said about hatred.
What happened to your biological father?
I will admit, I don’t know a lot of details. After everything happened, my mama and daddy legally adopted me. They had to go to court, my paternal aunt also wanted to adopt me, but the judge awarded me to Connie and Maxine Stoddard. I know my biological father went to prison for a time, I believe for manslaughter and has since been released.
Has he ever tried to contact you?
Yes. When I was younger, he called a few times, in later years, he has written me a couple of letters, but I haven’t been able to read them. I gave them Holly and told her to not tell me what she did with them.
How have you kept this from affecting you?
Two answers. First, only through God’s grace, my amazing family, (mama, daddy, Holly and the kids and others, a well as the others folks that have helped me along the way) they have shown me the beauty of God’s grace and redemption.
But, two, in short, it’s not that easy. I have spent a lot of time in my life thinking through/praying through the idea of forgiveness. But, as anyone that has ever lost someone can tell you, there is a pain, right beneath the surface that will sometimes show itself in ways that you don’t expect. What happened is not something I think about every day, but it is something that comes to mind quite often.
I do know, though, that no matter how great the pain, the hurt, the loss, God’s grace truly is greater. It really is.
Do you hate him?
I ask this question because it’s one that I asked my mama once. We were talking about Mama Sarah and I asked if she hated him. This is the man that murdered her daughter. She had every right to hate him. But she looked at me and said this, and I’ll never forget it. She said, “No Andy, if I hate him, he wins.” That’s always stuck with me. Hatred kills us. Hatred hurts us. It doesn’t hurt “them.” It only hurts us. Hatred is never, ever the answer.
Have you forgiven him? What that does even mean?
Yes, I have forgiven him. But forgiveness is not always what you think. Forgiveness is a process. It’s a day by day, constant handing it over to God. What we want is that magic “poof” and everything is gone, finished, and done with. That’s not the way that it always works. Forgiveness, many times, is that process.
For me, forgiveness means this. I wish my biological father no ill-will. I want nothing bad to happen to him. I pray, if he has not, that he meets Jesus and has our gracious Lord change his life.
I have no desire to be in a relationship with him, I honestly feel nothing towards him. And for me, that’s what forgiveness feels like. To forgive doesn’t mean that we have to be best friends. It doesn’t mean that we have to hang out. It simply means that we no longer hold it against one another and that we wish each other no harm.
We leave it all in Jesus’ hands. Yes, I have forgiven. But it is, even now, a day by day thing. Forgiveness is as much a lifestyle and an act of God’s grace, than it is anything.
Anything else that is particularly interesting about you?
Sure, my Mama Sarah was born in Ecuador, she was half Ecuadorian, which makes me a quarter Ecuadorian. Back before my hair turned gray, that’s where my dark hair came from.
She was a special education teacher, and it thrills my soul that that is what my Sarah wants to do right now.
My daddy, Connie Stoddard, is actually no blood kin to me. He’s my maternal step-grandfather. But he adopted me, gave me his last name, raised me, taught me how to work, be faithful to my God and my family and live a good life. He was the best man in our wedding. He drove a truck and showed me through his life that hard work is a virtue. He’s my daddy and I could not be more to proud to have been raised by him.
One last thing. I mentioned earlier that mama and daddy had to go to court to “win” me (I guess that’s the way to put it!) My paternal aunt and uncle also wanted to me adopt me. The judge awarded me to mama and daddy, and tragically a few years later that family was killed in a car accident. I could have been with them and who knows what would have happened.
This is why I live like I do. I know I shouldn’t be here. I do. I get it. I shouldn’t’ be here. But yet here I am. And I’m not going to waste a single moment that God has given me. This life is a blessing. And I’m not going to waste it.
How do you do this?
Jesus. That’s it. Jesus. It’s always about him. He has saved me and for some reason, He wants to use me. And as long as He allows, I want to use all that I am to make sure as many people as possible can know about His mercy and grace.