Father’s Day: To be Affirmed & Loved

Father’s Day. Each year it rolls around, a reminder of all that was, all that should have been and wasn’t, and all that could have been.

My mind wanders in every direction. This is my twelfth Father’s Day since my dad passed away. Oddly, I think of him more now that he is gone, than I did most of his living years–the last two or three being the exception.

Just like Mother’s Day, we didn’t celebrate Father’s Day, growing up. Except for that early childhood stuff we did in school. And when I handed dad whatever gift I had made, or some little card, he’d accept it graciously.

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He’d hold the item, especially if it was a card, and study it carefully. He was a perfectionist. A man who attended to great detail. Watching him write his name took patience for me. That’s how meticulous he was. Every letter was a piece of art, in his mind. And it was with the same attention that he studied a card.

At length, having absorbed every jot and tittle, he would look up, thoughtfully, and say, “Thank you very much”, always in Plautdietsch. And you could tell he meant it.

In those moments my little heart would skip a beat, and feel happy, and my feet wanted to skip too. But I held back those urges. At least until I was out of sight.  And in those moments everything was right in my world. All the pain, trauma and dysfunction, instantly forgiven.

In contrast I have watched my husband be a daddy to our children for almost twenty years. His patience, love and compassion have taught me much about my Heavenly Father, and helped me accept and receive Him as such. Tim isn’t perfect. But then, who is. There are areas he struggles–particularly in communicating his heart and feelings. His actions say it all,  as he lives what many say but never act on. We are truly blessed by his faithful representation of God’s grace and kindness. He loves his children, and their mom, with never a hint that we should be anyone other than who we are. In his heart, we are loved and accepted.

And that is what every child longs for: affirmation and acceptance. It’s in-born. We were created to have intimate relationship with God. No pain. No disappointment. No shame. No rejection.

That same love and acceptance was supposed to be ours in our earthly family too. But sin robbed us of that relationship with God, and brought tragedy and dysfunction into human relationships.

As a result we find ourselves struggling in the relationships that matter most. The ones that link most closely to our identity.

If you find yourself, this Father’s Day, in a difficult place as a daughter or son, you are not forgotten. I’m sorry for your grief and loss–no matter the reason for it, whether death or broken relationship, or distance geographically.  I pray that redemption will come, sooner rather than later. And I pray that you will find your hope and your identity in your Heavenly Father.

And if you are a father, like mine, who has failed your sons and/or daughters, it isn’t too late to do your part in healing that relationship. My father tried and failed, many times, caught in a cycle of abuse. And it wasn’t until he came face to face with God’s love and grace–completely apart from religion–that his heart found peace. Only then did we enter into any kind of heart relationship, in the last two years of his life. But it wasn’t too late. I hold on to those memories, of talking and crying together in spite of many years of broken history.

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This Father’s Day I am thankful for the memories of dad that remind me how much God loves His children. Amongst the memories of abuse and violence, these moments lie buried like diamonds, waiting to be discovered. And more than this, I thank God for Jesus, who has redeemed even the hard times.

But most of all I am thankful that God is my Heavenly Papa. That I can run to Him with anything, and He simply loves me. Whatever gift I bring Him, He accepts graciously, taking in every jot and tittle. And, having done so, He looks at me with love… and I know…

…I am His daughter, He is my Father.

 

© Trudy Metzger

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Conversation with Old Order Woman: “Love the ‘Me’ That I Am”

The phone rings. I recognize the name. Earlier this year I met several Old Order women in the States. This particular woman is one I would wish to know better; she is so likable, fun and a dynamic communicator. Her lilting voice, her expressive eyes, and easy laugh all work to deeply engage her audience.

I answer the phone. She is depressed, she tells me, and losing hope. She wonders if I have time to talk. We chat for about 10 minutes. She talks, I listen, and I ask the occasional question.

Nothing bad is happening, really, she says. There are just things she longs for, that don’t exist in her world. She reaches for affirmation, and longs to be loved and encouraged. Basic human needs. She has a good husband, a handsome son, and several beautiful daughters. They love her, she knows that. But, beyond that little world at home, she struggles.

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She thinks ‘outside the box’ of her culture, not quite able to confine herself to the expected temperament of a ‘meek’ woman. She borders on being flamboyant, in spite of her cultural attire. Something that I find quite refreshing to watch, as ‘who she is’ collides with what one anticipates, based on that attire.

It is much as if a priest would come skipping and jumping down the church aisle, waving the cross freely from side to side, and whistling a happy little tune, prior to mass or some ceremony, not out of irreverence, but pure joy in his heart.

That ‘spirit is just who this woman is, by God’s design, and His joy bubbles out of her, and, in the eyes of her people, it spells ‘in a messy heap on the floor’ of her culture. They simply don’t know what to do with it, with her.

But she loves her culture, embracing the simple lifestyle with deep appreciation and pleasure. Only a few things, she says, she would change. Maybe one or two fast car rides every year just to get it out of her system. (“But I would need to be the driver,” she says.) And maybe some of the restrictions on women, like staying home so much. She would rather go out walking or jogging with a friend, now and then, even though it’s an unwritten rule that middle-aged women not do such a thing. But the clothes, the horse and buggy and those cultural things, she wouldn’t give up. Those she loves! She would add Bible studies and fellowship, because of her deep spiritual awakening, but never leave her culture.

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I listen to her and smile. It is so refreshing to hear her express her love of her culture. Her voice ‘sparkles’, even when she’s feeling down. She tells me of the criticism she faces for not being like the other women in church. She follows the rules, but her personality just doesn’t fit.

“Nothing bad is happening right now. Nothing is really wrong. But there are things I long for…” her voice fades.  “Maybe I’m just being selfish.”

She pauses.

At length she continues, “Can’t they just love me for who I am?” She speaks with sad desperation, then pauses once more. When she speaks again, her voice is filled with passion and intensity, the sparkle back in her voice. “I may not be a good ‘Old Order’, but maybe I’m still a good Lavina!”

I burst into giggles, as tears fill my eyes. She giggles too.

“I love that!” I tell her, “And, yes, you are so right! You are a good Lavina!”

She laughs. “Really?”

“Yes! Really!” I tell her that she isn’t selfish at all and that we all long for affirmation, in one form or another, and she is simply human.

“I am? You mean I’m not the only one?” she says, surprised.

“No, Lavina, you are not alone! You and every one of my clients here in Ontario, whom I’ve spoken with this week, shared that same longing for acceptance and affirmation. We all struggle when it isn’t there.”

She sounds relieved. The phone call, though brief, has lifted her spirits. There is nothing wrong with her after all. Her desires and longings are legitimate human needs. No doubt many others in her culture, like her, struggle with it too. Every other culture does. We are all human, after all.

We are created for relationship. We long to be in up-building, affirming relationships, and struggle when those are lacking, or when toxic relationships undermine us. While I believe that Jesus is enough, in every situation, I will add, quickly, that He often reveals Himself through humans.

A moment of listening, and offering compassionate encouragement rather than judgement, may be all the person needs in order to find courage for that next step. Some small affirmation may be the very thing that reminds them God has not forgotten.

I learned this lesson in 2010, when an unbelieving friend and I had a conversation at a church event. With no agenda, and in all sincerity, I applauded him as a father. He’s an amazing dad. And has been as long as I’ve known him. Long before he was a believer.

I watched, in shock and delight, as that moment opened the door for him to hear from his Heavenly Father. Within moments my friend accepted Jesus as his Saviour and embraced a journey of faith. And he started the conversation, all because I affirmed him as a father.

Like my friend, there are people all around you, all around me, looking for someone to accept them ‘just as they are’, without judgement or strings attached. Every person you meet is an opportunity to let the love and grace of Jesus flow through you, and leave each person better for having known you.

What truth do you offer the people in your life? How do you bring hope, courage and more meaning to those whose lives you impact? Do you love the ‘Lavina’s’ in your world simply for who they are? Or do you demand that the people around you fit in a mold of your choosing before you accept them?

© Trudy Metzger

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