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Holy Lace
Like life, lace is full of holes that can’t be filled. But in God, the final product is beautiful. This is the story of one woman’s quest to hear her earthly father say, I love you.

My three-year-oId heart was full of envy as I watched my younger brother hang on to my papa's suspenders while being jostled on his knee. With a trembling heart I moved to Papa's side and whispered, "Can I have a turn, Papa?"

lace

"What?"

My lips quivered. “Can I have a turn on your lap?"

He stood quickly, set my brother on the floor and said: “I need to finish the chores." My heart sank. From that time on, I believe, my life became a quest to hear my papa say he loved me.

During my teenage years, I learned that working with dad meant I received his attention. Helping him feed and milk the cows, or working together on the newsletter he edited, were some of my happiest times. Initiating theological discussions or asking his opinions on church matters also resulted in engaging interaction. But still my heart longed to hear that he loved me and that he recognized my worth.

Even marriage to the man of my dreams didn't replace that urgent desire for a satisfying father-daughter relationship. Finally, I gathered up the courage to ask him outright "Dad, you probably do love me, but for years I've longed to hear it out loud. Rather than let it continue to bother me, I thought I would ask if you could tell me that you do.”

"Why would you have to hear it from me?" he replied. "You should just trust that it is so...." On and on went the explanation. It felt like a scolding. He couldn't say the words. I was devastated.

Over the ensuing years, heated and hurtful things were said between us. My husband and I came to dread our visits with him. Since it began to affect how I related to my children and others, I realized I needed to do something. I saw a counselor to help me negotiate the landmines of my past.

When I confessed the burning need that had hounded me most of my life, she let me talk, handed me tissues when I cried, and let me talk some more.

"It sounds as though the need to hear your father express his love for you has left a big hole in your life.”

I nodded my head. "Oh yes ... a big hole,” I said, dabbing my eyes.

"Sometimes there are holes in life that, for one reason or another, can never be filled." Then she gently suggested, "At such times, we just have to accept the holes and learn to live with them.”

I pondered her statement on the way home. "OK Lord," I prayed, "I have this big hole in my life. What can we do with it?"

Distinctly I heard God say, “What would lace be without holes?"

I was stunned!

After a moment, I prayed again. "All right, Lord, I hear You. So how do I make lace around the holes in my relationship with my dad?"

"You can start by assuring your dad that you love him."

"But, Lord, he's my dad. Shouldn't he be the one to start?"

"Do you want lace or do you want holes?"

"Lace, Lord. I do want lace.” I took a deep breath. "Where do I begin?"

"Start telling him in your letters that you love him.”

So I began to include those words in each letter. After a while, I felt prompted to tell him things I appreciated about him—things he had taught me by word or example; his love of reading; his longing for knowledge; his desire to help others find faith; and how he stood for the right whether it made him popular or not.

I began hugging him when we visited. He stood straight and tense, as though afraid of the physical contact, but I kept doing it. Gradually, something began to change, and surprise! It wasn't all in him. My heart began to feel tender toward him. Accepting my dad as he was began to release my hurt.

Then came a time of turmoil in our home. I dreaded telling Dad about the things that were happening, fearing he would find a way to lay the blame on past decisions my husband and I had made. I was right! He reprimanded us quite harshly. My voice was full of anguish as I told him how my heart was already breaking. With hot tears flowing down my cheeks, I left the room. He came after me.

"Ruth, I didn't know you felt so deeply hurt by all of this. I am sorry!"

When we left I gave him my usual hug. His hand gently touched me on my back. For the first time since I was very small, I felt his love—the beginning of an answer to my prayer.

When he went through a time of depression a few years later; I made a gift for him—a small glass filled with plaster, tiny silk flowers and a clothespins to hold cards inscribed with a Scripture verse. Every week that year; I sent five new cards.

As I searched for those Scripture verses each week, my love, understanding and forgiveness for Dad increased. Change began to happen in Dad, too, as he gradually became more positive in his outlook.

More years passed by and my mother died. Dad turned 93. His low heart rate affected his memory and slowed his thinking. I filled my letters to him with happy memories and expressions of my love. Dad eagerly anticipated those letters and read them many times. He began to ask,"When is Ruth coming?"

When I came through the door on my next visit, he rose to greet me and joyously exclaimed, "Ruth! You finally came!"

My arms encircled him. I kissed his cheek "Yes, Papa, I came. I love you, dear Papa!"

His arms pulled me toward himself. "I love you too!"

I marveled at the words I thought I would never hear. My lace was beautifully complete!

Ruth Smith Meyer lives in Listowel, Ontario, and is the author of Not Easily BrokenNot Far from the Tree, and a children's book, Tyson's Sad Bad Day. The adult novels are stories of a mother and her daughter based on the lives of two strong women. Visit her website at www.ruthsmithmeyer.com, or contact her via e-mail: smithmeyerbooks@gmail.com.

Originally published in Testimony, April 2010.

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