In a recent interview on 100 Huntley Street, Kerri Rawson, shared the heartbreaking story of when she found out her dad, Dennis Rader, was a serial killer and how God brought her to the point of being able to forgive her father.
In 2005, the police arrested Dennis Radar for murdering ten people including a father, mother and two children between 1974 and 1991 in and around Wichita, Kansas.
He was a serial killer who went by several acronyms including BTK, which Rader gave himself, that stood for ‘blind, torture, kill.’ He was also labelled as the BTK strangler and BTK killer by the media.
During his killing spree, Rader sent letters to media and police taunting their efforts to catch him, but it was these letters that eventually led to his arrest and subsequent sentence of 10 consecutive life sentences.
The arrest came when Rader started re-sending letters and messages to the media in 2004 after a several year hiatus.
It was a floppy disk sent to Fox News that played a major role in his arrest. From the metadata on the disk, police determined it was the property of Christ Lutheran Church and had been modified by a person named Dennis. This focussed police attention on Rader who served as both an elder and council president at the church.
This was Kerri Rawson’s father. As a child, she grew up in a typical American family, and along with her mother and sister, had no idea of the secret sadistic life of her dad until contacted by the FBI in 2005.
When Rader was arrested and sentenced for the murders, Kerri said she was traumatized by what took place. She found it impossible to forgive her dad for what he had done, even though she was now married and leading a woman’s ministry at the church.
However, her refusal to forgive had a devastating impact on Kerri. Though she seemed fine on the outside, this was a lie, because she was dying inside as Kerri hardened her heart towards God.
But that all changed when God moved on Kerri as she was driving her car. The Holy Spirit softened Kerri’s heart and told her that she needed to forgive her dad. During this brief moment of grace, Kerri was able to forgive and chose to do so.
She told 100 Huntley:
“The forgiveness came from God. It wasn’t for me. It was something He wanted me to do to get rid of that rot that was in me. Because I thought I was doing okay. I was a mom, a women ministry leader, a wife.”
She described the unforgiveness as a rot inside her because it empowers others to continue controlling and influencing your life.
As fifth century Christian theologian Augustine of Hippo wrote:
“Resentment is like drinking a poison and waiting for the other person to die.”
And as well, Jesus warned that a refusal to forgive has a direct impact on our relationship with our Heavenly Father, who Jesus says is unable to forgive us (Matthew 6:14-15).
As an aside, I have often wondered if an unwillingness to forgive is a subconscious rejection of God’s forgiveness of us.
If you are struggling to forgive, I believe, like Kerri, that God will give us brief grace moments where we are able to do it, and we need to take advantage of them when they happen.