The mere utterance of the word “father” paints vividly different picture for many different people. For some, the picture is alive and well and changing every day. For others, the colorful picture is full of wonderful memories, each painted in the throes of happy times over a lifetime of events. For others, more of a black and white, dull emotionless; and for others still, the picture of blackness, representing the loneliness of the father-shaped hole in their heart created by the absence of that essential relationship.
In the month of June each year we honor our fathers on the hallmark day set aside for them. I remember so vividly the pencil holder I made for Fathers’ Day when I was in third grade. It was made by meticulously tearing tiny bits of masking tape, applying them randomly to a soup can until it was completely covered. Then, after covered in masking tape bits, gently rubbing brown shoe polish, applied with an old rag, created the appearance of an aged, cracked glass container – in this case to hold pencils. I was proud of that pencil holder, and looked forward to giving it to my Daddy. As I put the finishing touches on his pencil holder, cancer continued to ravage his body to degrees that my 8 year old mind could not comprehend. I knew he was sick, but did not fully understand all that his sickness would mean in my life.
Father’s day came, and he was thrilled to receive my work of art. That work of art would be gently placed in his casket only days or weeks later. I remember so clearly the night that he passed from this world into eternity – the details of which I cherish in private. The finality of his death took many months for me to realize – it all seemed so surreal to me that I thought it was all a bad dream from which, one day I would wake.
Through his sickness, my father’s faith in God never waned. He was, and remains to me, one of the most Christ-like men I have ever met. When he was well, he would spend his lunch hours on the streets of Pittsburgh looking for people to whom he could witness – bringing the hope that he had through the saving grace of Jesus. He knew that when he passed from this world, he would be entering eternity with Jesus. For him, it was wonderful. For me, it was devastating. For many years, I could not understand how God could take someone like my father away from his family. I was angry at God, and spent many years searching for ways to deal with the father-shaped hole left in my heart.
My mother, though wounded, stood as strong in her faith as she had through any hard times in life, and was the rock that my sister and I needed to keep us grounded. Over the years, we continued to go to church and build relationships with those who eventually helped me to see that, thought I may not understand all, God indeed has a plan for my life. Eventually, and through means and methods weaved into my life through God alone, I learned that Jesus, and only Jesus, can fill the father-shaped hole in my heart. Though I may never understand, on this side of Heaven, why he chose to bring my father home when He did, I am confident that my life experiences have prepared me to continue that work; to spend time looking for people to whom I can witness – bringing the hope that I have through the saving grace of Jesus.
There are so many people who have father-shaped holes in their hearts – for some, the father-shaped hole may be have been created by fathers who have left, fathers who have died, or even fathers who are physically present but emotionally absent from their children’s lives. My prayer is that they may come to know their Heavenly Father – and that He will fill the father-shaped hole in their hearts, preparing them to continue His work, looking for others to whom they can share their Hope.