The memories are making my heart ache again.
Facebook’s “See Your Memories” feature has been a daily reminder lately of an especially hard time in the life of our family. You see, it was two years ago that my father had to be placed in a nursing home; his final residence on this earth. Not by his own choices but because of an illness that was robbing him of the man he’d always tried to be.
My father was always a strong, hard working man that took responsibility very seriously; brought up as the first born in an 100% German household these traits were natural to him. At a young age, due to the illness of his father, he took over the responsibility of the family farm and gave his life to maintaining it and helping to provide for his mom and siblings. God, knowing this would happen, gave him both a love for the land and talent for working it that combined well with his strong desire to provide for the needs of others.
God also gave him a powerful father’s heart.
It started showing up when, during the absence of his father, he would use this father instinct to guide his 6 younger siblings. Soon he would become a father figure to area children and teens as he served in the church.
After his marriage to my mom and then the four children God gave them by birth his father’s heart was not yet satisfied and they chose to open their home to over 100 foster children. He knew that there were many children that would need to feel a father’s love and he seemed to have that in abundance. One by one they would come into our home and experience the nightly ice cream treats while rocking in his lap. They all experienced the gentle yet firm way he would care for the various needs attributed to the way the world had messed up their lives. His father’s heart would give him the patience, after a long hard day, to take that extra trip back to town to retrieve a lost pacifier, knowing it was the only way this child would sleep peacefully that night. He had a heart that wished he could rescue them all and joyfully chose to adopt one of them when the option presented itself.
He had a father’s heart that could be felt even during the need for discipline.
I remember one time when my sister and I were still talking even after being warned to go to sleep and the need arose for a spanking. This time it was my father who came to make sure we understood the importance of obedience. The pain we felt that night did not come from his strong, muscular, farmer’s hands because the blankets were always kept between us and that hand; in fact my sister always had extra time to put on more blankets. The pain we felt came from knowing we had hurt our father’s heart because we understood that he did not enjoy using his hands for such an act. Obedience was quickly learned that night.
My father’s heart helped us all desire the right path.
Then a nasty disease called Parkinsons started ravishing the body of this man. It started taking his physical ability to provide for those he’d always cared for. When dementia was added to the diagnosis it started stealing his ability to communicate the way he had always chosen to. However, neither of these terrible afflictions could steal his heart. Even when we wheeled him into the nursing home that day, the children of the daycare located nearby saw him and his father heart drew them in.
For that brief moment we all got a glimpse of the man we had always known.
Even when all we could do was sit with him and watch the pain, anxiety and frustration he was going through, we still felt his heart clearly beating with love. No matter what he could not say, he would always say he loved us. In fact, the last time I saw him alive I witnessed him reaching for a wallet that was no longer there because he still wanted to provide for the needs of his family. This was my father’s heart and I miss it.
There was only one reason that the world and this disease were not able to rob my father of his loving heart; my father chose daily to stay completely linked to God the Father’s heart.
My dad started developing a father’s heart when he gave his life to Jesus as Lord and Savior at the age of 12. It was strengthened as he chose to start each day by hearing from God the Father’s heart through reading the Bible. The incredible amount of time he spent in prayer continued to build this relationship with God the Father and was evidenced in how he chose to live so much like the God he was getting to know.
Because he was not perfect he learned firsthand of the beautiful forgiveness offered by his Heavenly Father through the death and resurrection of Jesus and in turn chose to offer it to us and many others that had offended him in this life. I believe that the goal of my father’s life was to help others see God the Father’s heart through him; he did this successfully.
Since my father passed away I have had an increasing passion to live with the same goal.
Each time I look in the mirror and see the reflection of my father’s strong facial features that I carry I pray to carry his heart also. The only way I know that this will happen for me is to continue to choose to follow his lead and spend more time each day digging into the Bible to find God’s heart first hand. I too must spend much more time in prayer developing our relationship as I listen to God the Father’s heart in response to all my questions and requests. If I am to have a heart like my earthly father’s I must have a heart more like my Heavenly Father’s.
Starting this week I plan on developing a writing series that will be revealing what I am learning about God the Father’s heart. This is preparing me for the renewed ministry calling God has given me; a ministry to reveal God’s heart to all I encounter.
I, Colleen Pearl, will not only be a girl who holds her Father’s hand but I hope to be a girl who shares His heart with others.
I will do this in honor of both my earthly father and my Heavenly One; who are actually dwelling in the same place right now.
Thank you daddy for being a great example of a good, good father.