When my Father recently passed away, there was nothing but confusion and emptiness for me. After years of abuse, neglect and broken covenants, he abandoned my Mother and his seven sons. I have always wanted a meaningful relationship with him but I guess, for now, it is not to be.On the day of his death, I wondered, what do I have of my Father. There are no photographs, good memories are few, and hurt is plentiful. I went to my tool box and found a well used pair of fencing pliers that had once belonged to him. These are all I have left of my Dad. I sat up late that night and the next, holding his pliers in my hands. I looked at the pitted and warn surfaces and thought, can this be all?
I poured out my soul to the Lord to know what I was to learn from this experience. I felt strongly impressed that I was to mount these pliers. What a crazy thing, I thought, but the spirit compelled me and I followed.
The Lord does truly answer prayers. Sometimes it takes years, sometimes decades and sometimes it takes a lifetime. When the answer does come, it carries with it… peace. As I began to work, all I could see was lost opportunities, betrayal and a wasted life. I was so discouraged, frustrated and completely angry. Shortly before my Grandmother’s death, she asked me to help my Dad. I promised that I would but Dad blocked or deflected every attempt.
Driven by my dark mood, I selected a piece of dark Walnut. I scarred and abused the top surface of the wood. Each ugly gouge representing a specific betrayal or hurt. As I continued to work, the windows of heaven opened and I was literally showered with peace and understanding. My mind and hands were led as I fashioned spiritual understanding into the finished piece. It was amazing. As I finished each facet of the piece, the spirit would show me how a cut or inlay represented a spiritual truth. I came to understand, to my shame, that I was guilty of judging my Father. I had failed him.
The Spirit taught me that if I look at my Father from an arrogant, self exalted and supposed superior position, it is easy to focus on his faults. I realized that his faults and the scars I was placing in the wood could best be seen by raising myself high, and looking down my nose. I began to see me in a new way. My shame was complete. I begged the Lord for his forgiveness. The Spirit taught me that If I look at my Father as an equal, I will see him in a new light and from a fresh perspective. I had sanded, oiled and hand-rubbed every surface except the top, which was scarred. I dropped to my knees and looked straight into the piece, I noticed that the scarred top disappeared from my view and I could only see that which was polished. With deep gratitude, I began to see my Father in a new way.
I had placed some white wood inlays in the dark walnut. The Spirit taught me that, if I look, I will see areas where my Father has replaced dark parts of his spirit with light. I began to search for parts of my Father that were light and good. A few months before his death, Dad told me that he was proud of me. This was the first time he had ever said this to me and I clung to that single moment. I started to see my Father with appreciation and gratitude. I dropped to my knees again to thank the Lord for helping me to see.
Then the Spirit whispered, “look at your father the way I see him”. Jesus Christ has paid the full price and is the only one who is worthy and prepared to see and understand the whole man. For no particular reason, I had cut all four sides so that they slope down and away from the top. I leaned over and looked at the piece from above. This was an amazing and life altering moment. From a truly exalted position, similar to Christ’s, you can see every surface. Yes you can see the area that is scarred and damaged, but you can also see the four surfaces that are smooth and refined. From this perspective, you can see every place where light has replaced darkness. I pondered on how Jesus looks at us. Though he must take into account the scars of sin, I gratefully came to recognize that he focuses on and loves the many light and polished surfaces.
Yes, there are three ways to look at my Father and at all men. Again, for no particular reason, I had placed three white wood dots in the front surface of the wood. Now I know why my hands were led to do this. They are there so I will always remember.
Finally, I drilled a hole so that I could insert one handle of the pliers and have the tool rise from the wood at a pleasing angle. As my eyes fell on the pliers that have come to represent my Dad, I wondered, what can I learn from these. They show much evidence of prolonged abuse and neglect, yet they are still useful. Such is the case with my Father, abused, neglected and damaged but still a child of God, still useful. Christ will know what to do with that! I believe that Dad loves his sons but shame, separation and circumstance have made it hard for him to show it. These pliers are to remind me of my Dad’s unspoken desire for us, his boys, with regard to our own children. He would tell us, “Leave them more!”. More time, more memories, more laughter… more love.
The hours spent building this monument to my Father are among the most sacred and moving of my life. With the deepest gratitude and respect for my Father in Heaven, his Son and my Dad… I give thanks. This monument will always be in a place of honor in my home so that I can forever remember the wonderful lessons I learned from my Dad’s life.
I traveled to Arizona for my father’s memorial service. Per his request, we met together as a family in his favorite place. We gathered in a circle where each person had the opportunity to share the feelings of his or her heart. There was pain and anger, but mostly, it was a sacred time of peace and healing.
At the conclusion of the service we looked around for an appropriate place to scatter his ashes. We were standing in a small clearing that was surrounded by a massive grove of ponderosa pines. Dad had called this place the little green valley. In the center of the little green valley stood a small circle of oak trees. It was clear that Dad was to rest beneath their protecting branches.
Little did we know that God, who knows all, had prepared this place to bless our family. As we pondered this spot, someone noticed that there was one large tree in the center, surrounded by seven lessor trees. Dad has seven sons. Each tree seemed to have characteristics that matched those of a specific son. There is just no way to express my gratitude to God for preparing this miracle for us.
I carefully manicured Dad’s sacred place and raised a small monument in his memory. While doing so, I basked in the warmth of God’s tender mercies.