”Bu, bu, bu.” Looking at her lap, the middle-aged woman quietly shook her head, motioning that we should pass to the next person in the circle. It was her turn to tell her story, but she wasn’t ready to share. Not yet.
Sitting cross-legged on the grass on a warm spring day, I felt privileged to be the only wai-guo-ren, or foreigner, in this small group of amazing women. The others were all youth workers in East Asia, participating in a week-long conference on how to reach the rising generation.
The message that morning had been on the Father heart of God, and we were reflecting on how our relationships with our earthly fathers affected our image of our heavenly Father. Embarrassed at showing any sign of emotion, the women struggled to overcome their cultural reserve and open their hearts to the group. Yet one by one, the stories started to pour out.
“When I was younger my father would let me sit on his lap, or hold my hand when we walked. But after I turned four or five, he never held my hand or hugged me again. He didn’t want me to be spoiled.”
“My mother died when I was young, and my father worked in another city and sent money to my grandparents, who raised me. I only saw him every few years. I went to live with him when he remarried. I was fourteen, and I didn’t know him at all. He was like a stranger.”
“I don’t remember my father ever praising me. He said he didn’t want me to be prideful, so he always criticized me and told me what I could do better. I wanted to please him, but whatever I did, I felt like it was never enough.”
“My father never told me he loved me.”
Finally, after everyone else in the group had shared, the last woman agreed to tell her story. I had to lean in close to hear as she began to speak in a low voice, haltingly, her eyes on the ground. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she recalled the little girl she had been, decades ago, who just wanted her father to show that he loved her.
In the silence that followed, I looked around and saw that everyone could identify with her pain. Each woman had a similar story of rejection and disappointment. The unmet desires of childhood had left gaping wounds in their hearts that were still raw years later. As we hugged each other and cried together and prayed for each other, I knew I was witnessing something powerful. God was healing those deep hurts, revealing Himself as our true Father.
Where our fathers or mothers or spouses or friends have been imperfect representations of love, our heavenly Father wants to fill those gaps with His perfect love. God IS love (I John 4:8). He is the true definition of unchanging, unfailing, unconditional love. He will never disappoint you. Let Him fill the holes in your heart with the love of your heavenly Father.
For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ” Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15)