Editor’s note: Names have been changed in this profile for privacy. The interviewee was given the right to choose his “new name,” and Achilles is what he chose.
“My dad asked me to make a decision, right then and there, did I want him to be in my life, or did I want him to hang up, and I would never hear from him again?”
Everything in Achilles wanted to say “Yes! Go away! Leave me alone,” but he felt God tugging on his heart, telling him to give his dad another chance. But how many chances did he expect?
At his older sister’s wedding, Achilles heard from his father for the first time in a while. He called him, most likely drunk, getting angry at Achilles, because his sister’s fiance hadn’t asked for her hand in marriage. Achilles had a choice to make:
To let his dad stay in his life, or to tell him to go.
It all started when Achilles was five. His parents got divorced, and Achilles only saw his dad every other weekend. His dad would come home late every night, drunk and ready for trouble. Sometimes, as Achilles found out only a year ago, his father would push his mother down or kick her. “I remember glasses breaking, and as a kid, not being able to sleep. I’d just hear shouting every night.”
“One night,” Achilles explains, “My dad took us,” Achilles and his older sisters, “out to Ruby Tuesday’s. He got drunk and passed out. When he woke up, he tried to take us home, but the people that worked at the restaurant wouldn’t let him take us. I remember they coaxed me to come in the back with gummy worms. I don’t know how they got my sisters, but we were all back there. I remember my dad busting into the kitchen and cussing out the manager, but then the police came and took him. My mom came to get us, and I remember after that, he stopped showing up to come get us on the weekends. He stopped calling. Basically, he just fell apart.”
After Ruby Tuesday’s that fateful night, Achilles only saw his dad a few times a year. Sometimes, his dad would come to lunch unexpectedly, but then Achilles wouldn’t see him for another six months to a year. As a child, Achilles didn’t really understand the situation, so when his dad would show up for lunch, he was elated. When Achilles would see his father, he would be convinced that his mom was at fault for their divorce, so, naturally, Achilles believed it.
“So, because of what my dad said about her,” Achilles said, “I treated her like crap.”
“When [my dad] called me, he would convince me that I was the most important thing in his life, so I was confused when I didn’t see him.”
As of today, Achilles hasn’t seen his dad in about a year. But now it’s just something he’s used to.
After his father left, Achilles’ mom thought that he needed a good male influence in his life. She hired Stephen, a college student, to come over and hang out with Achilles. Due to his rebellion and his father’s influence about his mother, Achilles was not excited to get help from her. The first time Stephen came over, Achilles threw a basketball as hard as he could at his face when he wasn’t looking, and ignored him for the rest of the time. The second and third times were not much better. When Stephen started coming to Achilles’ Little League games and to his school for lunch without being paid, Achilles knew that it wasn’t temporary.
“After a while,” Achilles said, “as I grew less suspicious and Stephen started hanging out with me more, he actually became my big brother and eventually lead me to Christ.”
Stephen invited Achilles to the Christian camp that he worked at in Florida, year after year. He would have Achilles read the Bible aloud when they were driving. At the time, Achilles didn’t understand, but he read it for Stephen’s sake. Finally, one year at camp, Achilles learned what it meant to be in a relationship with Jesus Christ. He finally realized why Stephen had him read the Bible. He finally realized why there was something so different about Stephen.
Here’s an audio clip of Achilles describing Stephen’s role in leading him to camp and to Christ.
When Achilles started on the high school wrestling team, he gained automatic success. In his four years in high school, he wrestled on varsity all four years, and won a state championship. But, as a new Christian, Achilles’ biggest goal was to become a captain and be a Christian example to his teammates and competitors. “Wrestling was one constant thing throughout my life,” Achilles exclaims, “It was sometimes an outlet for me. It was always nice to have something there where I could just go out and push myself.”
When it came time to choose a college, Achilles was unsure. He had many options, but every college visit was the same. He hated them all. He couldn’t find a place where he belonged. Almost last minute, Stephen, his mentor and brother, emailed him and asked if he had ever looked into Wheaton College. Immediately, Achilles went online and looked at the program. Stephen sent an email to the wrestling coach at Wheaton. When the coach responded by emailing Achilles, he saw that the coach was a former Olympian. The coach signed the email with four words: “Jesus Christ is life.”
Achilles had always said that he would never attend a small, Christian college, but something in him was drawn to Wheaton. As other things lined up, it became clear that Wheaton College was the place where Achilles belonged.
After going almost a year without hearing from his father, Achilles received a text from his dad. And another. And another. His father texted Achilles like nothing had changed, like nothing happened. This time, Achilles was different. He was a Christian at a school that fosters spiritual growth. He knew he was supposed to love his father.
Achilles made his choice. He let his dad stay.