It has been nearly four years since I lost my dad. Even now, those unexpected waves of grief can swallow me. There’s a moment I dread every time I return to my hometown, Portland, Oregon. It comes when I walk past the spot in the airport where he was always, always waiting for me.
I miss that hug and kiss every time.
The latest wave sent me digging through files on my computer for traces of him. We exchanged a lot of emails over the years. That’s where I found the message he wrote while he was reading my first book, When Life & Beliefs Collide, for the first time, but not the last.
Needless to say, I was anxious to learn what he thought.
He had just read the the chapter where I explain my conclusion that ezer kenegdo (a.k.a. “suitable helper” in Gen. 2:18, 20) is a warrior. Ezer is the name God gave the first female when he cast the mold for all his daughters. (See “The Return of the Ezer.”)
The starting point for my research on the meaning of the Hebrew word ezer actually began with my father’s teaching. He gave me a strong start because he believed and taught that the help God intended for his sons was spiritual in nature.
Here’s what my father wrote me:
“I have finished Chapter 9, but was not prepared for what I was to read. I have taught for a long time that Eve’s job as a helper was primarily to help Adam spiritually, but I have never gone into it like you did. I felt that you did a great job, supporting what you had to say from other parts of the Word of God. And I am sure that you are right. I suppose that will be the chapter that some men will criticize, but I hope that those who read it, will read it with an open mind and heart.”
To this day, his words still carry a potency that only a father possesses. Who knew grief could lead to fresh encouragement for me to ezer on!
Some words are meant to last.
My father passed into eternity ten years ago at 70. I miss his greeting each time I visited: “Hey, good-lookin’!” and the Wall Street Journal articles he took the time to save just for me. I am tearing up as I am encouraged to know he will greet me someday (same way? :)), with news that he has been waiting to share with me about living in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Kerry, That makes me smile. Yes, the missing goes on and on, but the best hope is that while words do last, missing isn’t forever.
What a blessing to have had such an encourager as a father. His legacy clearly lives through your work. Thanks for sharing this.
He has a profound influence on my work. Still does.
I have heard a criticism against ‘blessed alliance’ arguments – that women tend to reject patriarchy because they didn’t have a strong leader in their father or because they had a bad relationship with him. My experience is the opposite. I have a very close relationship with my Dad and he is the one who pushed me to think for myself and make decisions for myself. He is the one who taught me the value of daughters through his affectionate care of me and my sisters. He was an example of God-our-Father early in my life and it is through his influence that I know that, as a daughter, I share the same standing (value, privileges, and responsibilities) as any son. Thank God for strong men and fathers like ours!
A father’s words of affirmation are lasting gifts, to be sure. Your dad sounds amazing, Jean.
Hi Carolyn, I am so glad you shared this email from your dad. I miss him, too. He was a great Bible teacher and for him to humbly honor you this way is priceless. Thank you for being brave and open to receive teaching from the Holy Spirit and then passing it on through your books and teaching. Our dads encourage us as yours did.
Blessings and ease on!
Diane Johnson Snelling
I think a lot of people miss him and are grateful for the strong foundation we got from his teaching. I loved seeing your parents again when I was in Portland/Clackamas this past Fall. Thank you for your encouraging words!
You ezer on too, my friend!
I meant Ezer on!😊
Carolyn, I just read your latest post. If you remember, I am an M.Div student at Biblical, 56 years young. I graduate in June! I would love to have the opportunity to meet you before I graduate and set out with my degree in hand. Could I meet you somewhere near your home or the campus on a Tuesday or Wednesday? Or is there an event where you’ll be speaking anywhere in PA that I might attend?
I realize you are very busy so if we don’t get to meet, I will keep following your posts and reading your books (your husband gave me the first one I read!) for encouragement as I live out my calling and communicate what I am doing and why to others.
Regards and blessings, Brenda Reibs
Brenda, I’d love to meet with you and am sure we can find a time between now and June graduation. Use the contact menu choice above to email me. We’ll set up a time. -CJ
Brenda, I just had to say I’m an MFT student at 54, and yay for learning all life long! I’m studying to be a Christian sex therapist after repenting of promoting patriarchy for a long, long time. God has been so kind to give me a new vision and lots of encouragers. (And I’m an Oregon girl, too, Carolyn. My husband and I married in Portland 35 years ago, and my dad was an editor at the Oregonian.)
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Thanks, Carolyn. I am walking through the loss of my mom to dementia/MSA and have walked through other losses with both my mom and dad due to choices they made. My Dad was a pastor with a D.Min, and although I’ve often struggled to reconcile how he could have been that and then made other choices, his approach to theology and people shaped me in ways I am still discovering. He was the one who would sit up with me late at night and talk through all of my questions and fed the learner in me. He passed on articles of Christian women taking on advocacy and community health in sub-Sahara Africa. He normalized and nurtured biblical/theological thinking and the “ezer” in such a way that the idea of a seminary seemed like a natural step despite a college degree in a very different field. His feedback and input as I processed conferences, camps, and ministry as a teenager and college student was so formative. Thanks for sharing a slice of what grief and encouragement looks like for you, and for prompting me to reflect on the influence of his feedback despite other ongoing challenges in our relationship.
Sounds like you have an awful lot to process. But I’m so glad to hear your father was also a champion for you. That is an incredible gift that a lot of women (men too) live without. Thank you for sharing your story.
So true. Josh and I just got back from the funeral of his grandfather who has been a constant presence in my life over our the last decade and loved me like his own. He made sure I knew how much he loved me and was proud of me, which means the world.
I’m so sorry to hear of your loss. I also read your Tweet about this and know your grief comes at a joyous time because of the birth of your niece. Must be so hard to juggle your emotions. Josh’s grandfather must have been an amazing man. Of course, it isn’t hard to imagine him loving you like that.
Carolyn, what a rich rediscovered treasure and yes, those words last!